Democratic Security Institute stands with all of our colleagues in Georgian civil society against the so-called “foreign agent law” currently being passed in the Georgian Parliament. It constitutes an existential threat to Georgia’s democracy and everything the country has achieved since independence.
Given almost all Georgian civil society organisations are funded significantly by foreign donors, this law will categorise almost the entire civil society sector in Georgia as “foreign agents”. As such, the version of the law likely to be passed has nothing in common with the commonly cited FARA legislation in the US, which is explicitly targeted at direct agents of antagonistic powers. The content of the law is instead very similar to legislation passed in Russia and Hungary.
Ironically, agents of Russian influence who present a legitimate threat to Georgia’s security will not be affected by this legislation as they largely receive funds through secretive channels. This law will hurt activists, journalists and policy professionals who work tirelessly on issues vital to Georgia’s democratic security such as environmental, social, and economic justice.
Our view is that the government is passing this law in order to signal to Russia that Georgia is willing to sabotage its own chances of EU integration in order to placate the Kremlin. In addition, the law will enable the government to exert pressure on civil society organisations and create a chilling effect on criticism of government policy, while undermining their standing in wider society.
While this antagonistic step is most likely primarily aimed against those organisations that are perceived to be aligned closely with the opposition, everyone in Georgia, whatever their political views, has a right to free expression without being unjustly labelled a foreign agent. This law will hit all of us in the sector, regardless of where our political sympathies lie. As such, this law is an attack not just against a particular political party or group but against Georgian democracy itself.
We at DSI stand with all of our colleagues across the sector in condemning the law and call for it to be withdrawn immediately.