Georgia’s controversial ‘foreign agents’ law sparks global concern

'Foreign Agents' Law

This week, Georgia’s Parliament was embroiled in an intense controversy over a bill widely referred to as the ‘foreign agents’ law. Widespread protests have been staged and global human rights organizations express concern on the possible effect on free speech and services offered by non-governmental organizations in the country.

Prolonged discussions led to the postponement of the voting. The opposition accuses the law of meddling with NGO operations, intensifying already high tensions. Government officials, however, argue the law is vital for national security and transparency.

In response, citizen-level protests have been non-stop. Many Georgians view the planned law as a looming threat to their democracy. They see the government’s support as a let-down and say that the law seemed to be restricting their freedom and political participation rights.

The bill managed to be passed with the majority legislators onboard, despite the intense outcry.

Global apprehension over Georgia’s ‘foreign agents’ law

Fatal for the political diversity and anti-corruption activists, President Salome Zourabichvili plans to veto the bill, though this might be overruled by the ruling party.

Under the law, organizations funded over 20% from foreign sources are required to label themselves as ‘foreign agents’. Critics think this is a trick to distance Georgia from the European Union and the greater Western world.

Natalie Sabanadze, former envoy to the EU, condemns the bill. She considers it as a foreign law being used to silence civil society and dissent in different countries. Furthermore, she believes it is a significant threat to Georgia’s civil society.

The international response has been overwhelmingly negative. From the United States, EU, to Canada, officials express disappointment, concern, propose possible sanctions and financial penalties against Georgia. This has signaled potential risk for Georgia’s international relations and also jeopardizing its democratic development.

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