Smearing, intimidating, investigating, or even banning civil society is nothing new in many of the OSCE participating states. Human rights groups that often denounced as “national enemies”, “fifth column” and like, are the targets of repressive laws that restrict the opportunities of NGOs to receive funding, obtain legal status, and operate in unimpeded ways. Several governments in the OSCE region are exploiting concerns about national security and stability to justify repressive measures against key sectors of civil society.
Russia’s “foreign agents” law of 2012 continue to serve as inspiration for other countries. Most recently in Georgia, where has been characterized by a more enabling environment for civil society than several other ex-soviet countries, tried to introduce Russian-style legislation to label NGOs that receive funding from outside of Georgia as “foreign agents”. The bill that many see as dangerously close to similar Russian legislation, caused mass protests in capital Tbilisi, and forced the ruling party to withdraw the proposed law. Similar initiatives were made by governments in Central Asia, especially in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Restrictive laws in Azerbaijan continue to severely impede NGOs from accessing to foreign funding and operating independently, while escalating repression and criminalization of civil society in Russia and Belarus has effectively paralyzed independent groups, with many civil society activists arrested and numerous groups forced into exile.
This side event will give the floor to civil society representatives and experts, who will discuss current challenges to freedom of association, share their first-hand insights and assessments of the situation and suggest strategies and recommendations to counter threats to civil society in the OSCE region.
-Ms. Gulshaiyr Abdirasulova, Director, Center for the Protection of Human Rights “Kylym Shamy”, Kyrgyzstan.
-Ruslan Myatiyev, Director, Turkmen.news Independent outlet, Turkmenistan
-Ms. Galina Arapova, lawyer, Director of Mass Media Defence Center, Russia
– Mr. Zohrab Ismayil, public policy analyst, Azerbaijan
-Mr. Artem Filatov, journalist and media expert, Russia
– Mr. Ucha Avsajanishvili, human rights expert, Georgia
Moderator: Vafa Fatizade, Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ), UK