Monday, June 17, 2024

US imposes visa restrictions related to Georgia’s foreign influence legislation

US Department of Justice Announces Visa Restrictions Against Georgian Citizens involved in Suppression of Dissent

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Thursday that visa restrictions will be implemented against Georgian citizens involved in suppressing dissent related to the country’s controversial “foreign influence” law. This law requires media companies and non-governmental organizations with foreign funding to register as organizations acting in the interest of foreign powers.

The DOJ condemned the Georgian government for using “repressive tactics” to crack down on recent protests, stating that the law would infringe on the rights to freedom of expression and association, as well as restrict access to information for Georgian citizens.

The visa restriction policy will target individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members. This includes those involved in suppressing civil society and peaceful assembly through violence or intimidation.

The “foreign influence” bill was reintroduced in April after being withdrawn last year due to public outcry. Despite opposition, the Georgian government passed the bill last week, with President Salome Zourabichvili vetoing it. However, parliament is expected to override the veto soon.

The bill mandates that media companies and non-governmental organizations receiving more than 20 percent of their income from foreign sources register with the government and disclose funding information. Failure to comply could result in hefty fines, asset freezing, or closure of activities.

Supporters of the bill, like the Georgian Dream Party, argue that it is necessary to safeguard the country from foreign interference. They claim the law is similar to foreign agent laws in the US and EU. Critics, however, view it as a “Russian-styled” restriction that undermines freedom of speech and damages Georgia’s potential NATO membership.

The visa restrictions have been denounced by the Georgia ruling party as “blackmail” and an attack on the country’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, protests in Tbilisi have been ongoing for over a month, with clashes between demonstrators and riot police escalating since the introduction of the law.

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