More Severe Draft Law on Foreign Agents Submitted

On February 27, the Parliament’s bureau discussed and endorsed for the consideration of the committees yet another, more severe version of the Russia-inspired bill on “foreign agents.” Like the previous version, it was submitted by the ruling majority MPs, who call themselves “People’s Power.” 

The alternative version extends the requirement to register as a “foreign agent” from organizations to individuals and increases the penalties for the failure to fulfill its requirements from fines to five years in prison.  

MP Eka Sepashvili, one of the initiators, claimed that the draft represented “an exact translation” of the U.S. law to convince the public that the first bill was more appropriate. Observers agree the new bill is a smokescreen to make the previous version of this Russia-inspired repressive legislation more palatable.  

As the bureau meeting was taking place, a group of journalists wishing to protest the law was denied access to the Parliament.  Speaker Shalva Papuashvili clarified that “the Parliament building, as an administrative building, is not the place where it is permitted to gather and hold a rally.” The journalists have earlier denounced the “Russian law” saying its goal is to silence critical media and prevent media and civil society organizations from highlighting cases of corruption, injustice, and poverty in the country.

The draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” has already triggered local and international criticism from the UN agencies in Georgia, U.S. and EU Ambassadors, the Spokespersons of the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, and the U.S. Department of State. President Salome Zurabishvili said that she “cannot support such legislation and persecution of new agents.” Despite the calls not to adopt the bill, the ruling party is carrying out an active campaign to support it.

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