UN Requests Georgia To Retract “Foreign Influence” Legislation

UN human rights commissioner Volker Turk voiced alarm on Thursday about police brutality against demonstrators and urged Georgia’s government to revoke a contentious “foreign influence” measure that was pending in parliament.

His remarks were made the day after the draft law was approved by the Georgian parliament on a second reading and after more rallies against the bill, which opponents claim is an attempt to quell dissent.

Should the bill become law, every independent media outlet or non-governmental organization that receives more than 20 percent of its money from outside would have to register as a “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Turk urged the Georgian government to revoke the proposed bill and to start a conversation, notably with media outlets and members of civil society.

“Labelling NGOs and media outlets receiving foreign funding as ‘organisations acting in the interest of a foreign power’ poses serious threats to the rights to freedom of expression and association.”

Mass anti-government protests have erupted throughout the Black Sea Caucasus nation since April 9, following the reintroduction of legislative measures by the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Earlier this week, police brutally put an end to a protest against it, beating and arresting numerous individuals while using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets.

Turk urged a probe into claims of maltreatment during protests or in jail, stating he was “concerned by reports of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force” by police enforcement against protestors and the media.

He further stated that those who were detained “arbitrarily for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be released immediately” and that the accusations against them would be withdrawn.