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Georgia: Repressive ‘foreign agents’ law approved amidst violent crackdown on protestors

Last update: 15 May 2024
Georgia: Repressive ‘foreign agents’ law approved amidst violent crackdown on protestors

‘PEN International is appalled by the violent repression of peaceful protests against the ‘foreign agents’ law in Georgia, as government critics are being beaten, threatened and harassed by law enforcement officials and unknown individuals in what appears to be a coordinated campaign. Those responsible must be held to account. The Georgian authorities must urgently uphold the right to peacefully protest and repeal the repressive legislation, which will severely curtail the rights to freedom of expression and association’,

said Ma Thida,
Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

15 May 2024 – PEN International and PEN Georgia condemn Georgia’s parliament’s decision to approve a Russia-style ‘foreign agents’ law despite mass protests marred by police violence and brutal assaults by unknown individuals against peaceful protestors. All those responsible for unlawful use of force and violent attacks on protestors must be brought to justice and the repressive legislation urgently revoked.

On 14 May 2024, Georgia’s parliament adopted a repressive ‘foreign agents’ law debated since mid-April 2024, despite widespread objections and mass protests across Tbilisi for over a month. Should the law come into force, organisations receiving more than 20% of annual funding from sources outside Georgia would have two months to register as ‘organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power’ and face draconian reporting requirements. Failure to register would be punishable by fines of up to 25,000 GEL (approximately 8,700 EUR). The law further authorises Georgia’s Ministry of Justice to conduct ‘thorough investigations’ to ensure the organisations comply.

Although Georgia’s president Salomé Zourabichvili said she would veto the law, Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, can overrule her, thanks to its parliamentary majority. Civil society organisations – including PEN Georgia – have repeatedly denounced the devastating impact the ‘foreign agents’ law would have on their work, with independent organisations and media bound to be smeared and stigmatized and critical voices stifled.

Mass protests against the law have been met with unlawful use of force by police against peaceful protesters, resulting in injuries amongst the protestors and dozens of unjustified arrests, as well as violent attacks by unknown individuals on prominent government critics in what appears to be a coordinated campaign. Rati Amaglobeli, a poet and co-founder of PEN Georgia, and Lasha Bugadze, a writer and playwright, are amongst the leading figures of the peaceful protest movement who have reported being threatened and harassed. ‘Enemy of the nation’ graffiti were notably painted outside their residences. Over 30 journalists covering the protests, as well as hundreds of critics, reportedly received anonymous and threatening phone calls in recent days.

The Georgian Special Investigation Service said it had opened a case into claims of use of excessive force by police. PEN International and PEN Georgia call for prompt, impartial, thorough, independent, and effective investigations into all incidents of violence and for all those responsible to be held account.

As civil society and critics of the ‘foreign agents’ law vowed to keep demonstrating, PEN International and Georgia PEN will continue to monitor the situation and respond to developments.

Notes to editors:

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: [email protected]