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Georgia’s new foreign agents bill raises concerns among rights groups and civil society

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Georgia, a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, has passed a controversial bill that requires NGOs that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents”. The bill, passed by the Georgian parliament, aims to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs. However, critics argue that the legislation is an attack on civil society and could be used to stifle dissent.

Under the new law, NGOs that receive over 50% of their funding from foreign sources will have to register with the government and disclose their sources of funding. They will also be required to label all their publications and materials as being produced by “foreign agents”. Failure to comply with the law could result in heavy fines and the closure of the organization.

The bill has been met with widespread criticism from both domestic and international organizations. Human Rights Watch, a global advocacy group, has called the legislation a “blow to Georgian democracy” and warned that it could undermine civil society and media freedom in the country. The European Union has also expressed concern about the law, saying that it could affect the country’s democratic development and its aspirations for closer ties with the bloc.

The Georgian government has defended the bill, saying that it is necessary to prevent foreign influence in the country’s affairs. The ruling Georgian Dream party has argued that the law is similar to those in other countries, including the United States and Russia.

The passage of the bill comes amid growing tensions between Georgia and its neighbor, Russia. The two countries have a long history of conflict, and Russia has been accused of meddling in Georgia’s internal affairs in the past. The Georgian government has denied that the new law is aimed at Russia and has said that it is designed to promote transparency and accountability in the NGO sector.

The law will come into effect on April 1, 2023, and is likely to have a significant impact on civil society in Georgia. Critics say that the legislation could be used to silence dissent and that it undermines the country’s democratic values.

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