The Daily Beat: 16 February
Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, reacted promptly to the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” tabled on Feb. 15 by the sovereignist “People’s Party” faction of the ruling majority. Price expressed “deep concern” about its possible implications for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future. He also said that likening this draft law to the U.S. legislation was “patently false” and argued that Russian or Hungarian laws were its closest equivalents. The U.S. believes that if passed, the new law would “stigmatize and silence independent voices.”
The ruling party chair, Irakli Kobakhidze, mocked the State Department’s stance, saying the U.S. law, known as FARA, is so “rough” that it would have been “in contravention with European human rights standards.” “We have softened it” to be compatible, Kobakhidze said.
The rapporteurs on Georgia from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged all political factions in Georgia not to support the draft law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence,” saying it raises several concerns about its compatibility with democratic and human rights standards and would “have a chilling effect if adopted.”
Georgia lost its second arbitration case to Russia’s state-controlled energy company Inter RAO. The Russian energy company was awarded USD 76 million in compensation by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which found the Georgian government in breach of contract. In December 2021, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce ordered Georgia to pay Inter RAO USD 80,5 million in compensation. Georgia will only have to pay one of these fines.
Four T.V. channels critical to the government held a joint live broadcast to show solidarity with Nika Gvaramia, a jailed manager of Mtavari Arkhi TV. Gvaramia, an outspoken critic of the government, was arrested last May on charges of abuse of his managerial authority. The Public Defender said these charges were not substantiated in criminal law, but Gvaramia’s prison sentence of over three-and-a-half years was upheld on appeal in November 2022. Gvaramia’s politically motivated imprisonment directly threatens the country’s democracy and freedom of speech, hindering Georgia’s European perspective, said journalists and Gvaramia’s colleagues, who came together in a new public movement to advocate for his release.
Nini Maisuradze, 19, won a five-year legal battle against the Ministry of Education on February 14. The court found that the Ministry’s failure to offer a school bus fitted to accept a wheelchair was indeed discriminatory. Maisuradze, then 14, could not attend classes for a year when her school was moved to another facility due to repairs in the old building.