Upholding Civic Freedom in Georgia

Defending Democracy


In early 2023, Georgians took to the streets to protest a highly restrictive draft foreign agent law. If adopted, the law would have required civil society organizations (CSOs) that receive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad to register as foreign agents. Branding these organizations as such would have implied that they were spies, discrediting their work and undermining civil society more broadly. The draft also granted enforcement at the government’s discretion, thereby allowing the prosecution of opponents.

Within days of the draft’s release, ICNL and ECNL developed and disseminated an analysis of the flaws. It highlighted contradictions with European Union (EU) laws and Georgia’s international law obligations. Given Georgia’s EU aspirations, these were powerful arguments against the bill. Furthermore, our analysis demonstrated the clear parallels between the draft law and the Russian law on which it was based. This became a central message in civil society and media campaigns against the bill, which referred to the draft as the “Russian Law,” highlighting its potential authoritarian implications.

We widely disseminated the briefer to our partners, human rights lawyers, youth activists, and international bodies. Georgian civil society representatives used our analysis to submit comments to ruling party committee members during the hearing. Additionally, our analysis garnered significant local media coverage, including on critical TV channels, independent online platforms, and influential English-language outlets.

By focusing on the draft’s broader implications, our analysis helped our partners add their voices to the massive campaign against the draft law, effectively ending the government’s consideration of this damaging legislation.

Update: June 2024

Despite strong opposition from citizens, civil society, and the international community, the Georgian parliament adopted the restrictive Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence on May 14, 2024. This law mandates that civil society and media organizations receiving more than 20% of their income from “foreign sources” must register as “implementing organizations of foreign power interests” (IOFPs). Additionally, it gives the government excessive power to interfere in these organizations’ activities. Although the President vetoed it, the parliament overrode the veto and the parliamentary speaker signed the bill into law on June 3. The law will enter into force on August 3, 2024 (Articles 1-9 and paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the law shall enter into force on the 60th day of promulgation), after which civil society and media organizations will have 30 days to apply to the Ministry of Justice for registration as an IOFP. Learn more about the law here.

This story is from our 2023 Annual Report. Each story in the report demonstrated how ICNL and our partners have strengthened the threads of resilience in civil societies worldwide.