LOOKING FORWARD: The Future of China-Central Asia Relations

Establishing political background

Warm Welcome of China ‘help’ in Central Asia

Uzbekistan is no more in isolation


All member states of the SCO recognize digitalization as an essential step to development. SCO member states have thus welcomed China’s eagerness to share and sell its tech-driven practices and insights. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has made digitalization one of his most urgent tasks and focused on emulating the Chinese model. Kazakhstan praised China’s success. Pointing to a specific Chinese company, Hikvision, he said the company’s techniques “have gone far ahead, they deeply digitalized all major cities. You click on the screen, the data on the person comes out, including literally everything. When he graduated from university, where he goes in his free time, and so on … We need to go in this direction. This is a global trend. I set this task just before our capital’s leadership”. Countries are set on a long-term path of reliance on Chinese technologies, with limited development of local capacity. In a worst-case scenario, this reliance – combined with a lack of local capacity – exposes Central Asian countries to deep potential national security problems, with the little domestic capability to manage these things themselves.

Green Finances

It is trendy in the age of digitization to move the economy to green color, investing more in green and self-sustaining development projects. For example, European countries are interested in investing in green energy, and Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic are rich in water resources and could self-sustain in the coming decades if investing in their development now. Overburdening developing countries with large loans as the Sri Lanka experiment showed, does not bring any good.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

China’s long-term policy toward its Western frontier

20th National Congress of the China Communist Party held on 16-20 October 2022 in Beijing. The congress concluded by approving the members of the standing committee and politburo (2296 members-delegate) and, for the third term, approved the selection of the Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, for the next five years.

Humiliation of predecessors

Western frontier – Central Asian countries

The importance of this engagement is the broadening of China’s historically economy-led (Chinese public and private investment and commerce) presence in the region to include hard power – strategy-security-military dimensions too. Friendly and neighboring states that are more aligned with their foreign policy prerogatives and long-term economic calculus. Underestimates the extent to which China is prepared to recouple and deepen trade ties – selectively – in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

What Central Asian countries think about China?

Central Asia Barometer is a Bishkek-based nonprofit that engages in applied social science research. It conducts large-scale public opinions surveys in the Central Asia twice annually. One key question is how respondents perceive about China.

In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan the most common response to this question is “somewhat favorable.” Yet in all three countries, when asked about China, the share of people giving a favorable answer has dropped noticeably in recent years.

Kazakhstan has faced more pressure in the last five years from China as Kazakh authorities deal with local anger at the Chinese government’s forced detentions of ethnic minorities (especially Uyghurs) in the Xinjiang region.

Combined Heat and Power plant (CHP) in August 2017.

The 4-year modernization of the city’s only source of heat for over half a century was initiated by the ex-president, and cost $386 million, which was borrowed from China on credit. The contractor chosen for the project, Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock Co LTD (ТBЕА), which built two new boiler units, each with an emission capacity of 150 megawatts (MW) of power and 150 gigacalories of heat.

On 26 January 2018, during a period of unusually hard frosts, an accident at the CHP plant led to a four-day breakdown of its heating system.

Kyrgyzstan’s member of parliament demanded that the culprits be put behind bars and took themselves en masse to the CHP plant to discover why the boilers had packed up.

Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

Kazakh’ minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Turkish-speaking minorities under oppression

The oppression of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples professing mainly Islam, forced sending of Uyghur, Kazakhs and others to “political re-education camps”, seizure of their passports, placement under so-called house arrests. Many minorities of Xinjiang have fled China for fear of detention. The Kazakhs are the second largest Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang after the Uyghurs and estimated around 1.2 million people.

The protests

Kazakhs in Uyghur Tribunal

    Sterilization + Birth Control = Genocide

    Xinjiang and Central Asia: What’s Going On!

    Since 2017, there have been reports from China of harassment of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples, who profess mainly Islam, the forced sending of Uighurs, Kazakhs and others to “political re-education camps”, the confiscation of their passports, and the placement under so-called house arrests. In recent years, many members of Xinjiang’s indigenous ethnic groups have fled China for fear of detention. China’s policies are sharply criticized by Western countries, including the United States, which call what is happening in Xinjiang genocide. Beijing rejects the accusations, calling the camps “vocational training centers” set up to fight extremism and terrorism.

    Central Asia support in solving the problem of Xinjiang. This means deporting any requested Chinese citizens of several ethnic groups– Uighurs, Kazakhs or Kyrgyz – back to China. Illegal border defectors are in most cases immediately sent back without ascertaining whether the person is seeking refugee status. This worked quite successfully for a while, but internal pressure from the Kazakh population on their government also led to the authorities slightly softening their position for ethnic Kazakhs. Kazakhstan’s political elites are now in a very difficult situation.

    China also appreciates regional support for the Xinjiang issue in the international arena. Central Asian countries, which have consistently voiced their support for Beijing, have proven to be an important counterweight to Western voices, and it has become clear that Central Asian countries are more likely to side with China than the West. In addition, from time to time we see politicians from Central Asia talking in Chinese newspapers about supporting China’s policy towards Taiwan or supporting China’s national security law in Hong Kong. This is purely political influence of Beijing in order to form its own support group, although the region may not know or be interested in the situation in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but Central Asian leaders simply agree with Beijing’s position.

    Beijing’s political influence is that Beijing should get what it wants. For a long time, China only wanted support on its domestic issues, but that is changing. Now China is dissatisfied with anti-Chinese sentiment among the local population in Central Asia and is asking political leaders to solve this in some way. This is a more direct intervention that can polarize the relationship between the political class of Central Asia and the local population. Repeatedly, representatives of the Chinese embassy came to complain about how poorly China is portrayed in the Kyrgyz media, they told Kyrgyz politicians that this is a bad practice of good neighborliness. The situation is similar in Tajikistan, there is a hidden message that the anti-Chinese position is a crime, so there are no protests there, citizens can be arrested for this. In Kyrgyzstan, police are also arresting and threatening leaders of anti-China protests, and at the moment, people can still complain about China, but China is already demanding that Central Asian governments prevent this.

    Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

    Digital Silk Road in Kazakhstan: surveillance and censorship under the veil of security

    The complicated geopolitical situation that has arisen as a result of the war in Ukraine, as well as large-scale Western sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus has raised a new question about how the Belt & Road Initiative will develop in the future. This is especially of concern to Kazakhstan, which has managed to take an important role in transcontinental routes. The blocking of the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian directions puts an end to the most important routes going to Europe. Bypass routes through the Caspian or the Middle East are working, but the cost of transportation and the labor costs of the trans-Caspian route are significantly inferior to the sea routes.

    Under these conditions, BRI partners, including Kazakhstan, are setting the task of cultivating new points of growth in such areas as artificial intellect, big data, digital finance, e-commerce, and green energy. The implementation of this approach largely explains the sharp increase in trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China in 2022. The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China in January-July 2022 reached $13.5 billion, which is 38.3% more than in the same period in 2021, which was then $9.7 billion. Moreover, the volume of Kazakhstani imports for seven months of 2022 from China is a record result for such a period: in 2022 Kazakhstani imports from China amounted to $5.5 billion, with an increase of 22.6% compared to the same period in 2021. Over the seven months of last year, imports amounted to $4.5 billion. The main growth in imports is observed in the commodity group “machinery, equipment, vehicles, devices and apparatuses” – by 19.4% (for the seven months of 2022 – $3.1 billion, for the seven months of 2021 – $2.6 billion).

    In general, the program for development of IT industry within the framework of BRI has been called the Digital Silk Road (DSR). The DSR is a government initiative where Chinese companies are key players. Chinese telecommunications giants such as Huawei and ZTE, as the largest telecommunications service providers and major 5G technology providers, are successfully achieving their goal of dominating the 5G market worldwide. Leading Chinese video surveillance companies such as Hikvision, Dahua and Huawei are among the main providers of surveillance services and technologies in developing countries, including Kazakhstan. According to a Fudan University report, it is noted that over the past two years, 201 Chinese companies in the digital field have completed 1,334 overseas investment and cooperation projects, 57% of which are related to DSR. In general, by developing next-generation telecommunications infrastructure, smart city technology and surveillance systems, data centers and storage infrastructure, and other high-tech tools, Beijing is seeking to increase its role in Internet telecommunications governance and cyberspace regulation.

    The rapid development of the IT sector in Kazakhstan, on the one hand, has a positive impact on the economy and makes the country more attractive for investment. On the other hand, the transfer of Chinese surveillance and censorship technologies is worrisome, and could further shrink civic space in Kazakhstan. The greatest concern is not only the import of Chinese technologies, but also the possible import of Chinese approaches to organizing the work of smart cities, which can now be called cities of surveillance and censorship. Smart cities built on Chinese surveillance technology promise increased security and convenience for residents, but at what cost?

    The examples of China itself are widely known. The most well-known measure of the Chinese government “to combat cybercrime” (in fact, for content restriction and total surveillance) is the so-called Golden Shield, or Dragon Firewall. It is a nationwide electronic barrier that filters and controls information flows in such a way that all Internet user data in China passes through a limited number of checkpoints (gateways), operated by a limited number of Internet providers. Since 2006, the entire Chinese segment of the Internet has come under the control of this state system.

    In Kazakhstan in the past few years, has been actively implemented the Smart City projects, within the framework of which CCTV cameras are installed on the streets of cities to ensure law and order and comply with traffic rules. For video surveillance systems implemented in Kazakhstan, Chinese products are mainly used.

    Since 2017, Sergek hardware-software complexes (which means “vigilant” in Kazakh) have been operating in the biggest cities of Kazakhstan, which are supplied by Korkem Telecom (a subsidiary of Open Technologies Group). These companies are Kazakh, but Korkem Telecom’s technical partner is Chinese Dahua Technology.

    Sergek is an intelligent video monitoring, analysis and forecasting system that includes:

    – A network of video recording modules that control key areas of the urban space – highways, squares, road junctions, house adjoining areas;

    – Image recording and recognition system;

    – Intellectual system of information processing and analysis.

    Sergek has computing power and special software that allows real-time processing of significant amounts of information. Hikvision, another Chinese manufacturer of CCTV cameras and security equipment, has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2015. Hikvision cameras in Kazakhstan monitor road safety as part of the Smart City projects, and are also used in the Unified Video Monitoring System of Almaty. This system should implement situational video analytics: recognize faces and license plates on cars.

    In September 2019, Reuters, citing unnamed intelligence sources and security experts, reported that hackers working for the Chinese government had hacked telecommunications networks in several countries, including Kazakhstan, to track down Uyghur tourists in Central and Southeast Asia. China seeks to monitor Kazakhstan because it is the historical homeland of many residents of China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; over the past few years, Chinese authorities have arrested more than one million people in Xinjiang.

    China has a lot more technical capabilities than it seems at first glance, and it’s not just about cameras, but also about Chinese-made mobile devices that are in high demand in Kazakhstan due to their low price, Kazakh cybersecurity experts say. Kazakhstani researchers consider the risks from the penetration of Chinese surveillance and censorship technologies to be very high, and point out that this aspect of the implementation of DSR initiatives occupies an undeservedly small place in public discussions on the topic of BRI in Kazakhstan.


    In January 2022, in Kazakhstan broke out protests, related to rising gas prices, which very quickly turned into political protests. A large number of citizens were detained – about 7,000 people, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs – who were detained based on data from street surveillance cameras. In response to an official request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs whether Face ID cameras and artificial intellect systems were used during the detention of protesters, the Ministry of Internal Affairs replied that such systems were not used. However, given the scale of the protests, and the large number of detained participants, this is hard to believe.

    Danil Bekturganov – Director, NGO “Civil Expertise”

    Public Perceptions of China in Tajikistan

    China’s acceptability in Tajikistan comes after Russia – the Tajik people and the Tajik government; why Russia is popularly accepted as a significant or dominant power – is clear; China comes after Russia. According to the Kenan Institute (based on a Central Asian Barometer survey), 54% of people strongly favor/support (in contrast, 73% strongly favor Russia and 40% strongly prefer the United States); 30% are somewhat favorable, and only 13% don’t know or refused to answer; 20% of people think that China is a reliable and friendly great power – it’s significant considering the number of percentages for Russia is 78% and for the US is 2%. Elizabeth Wood and Thomas Baker summarized the Central Asian Barometer Survey on Public Perception of China in Central Asia conducted from 2017-to 2021:  China’s public diplomacy wins the Tajiks’ admiration through culture, language, and civilization; the degree to which citizens and leaders view the PRC favorably could also be instrumental in advancing other economic, geopolitical, and security interests.

    Tajikistan presents high approval rates for the leadership of the PRC (63 percent on average). In contrast with the USA, it is less favorable (35 percent on average). Tajikistan is the case of China’s “extract” strategy, in which there are significant economic interests for the PRC, and the PRC has maintained high approval rates there.

    Umedjon Majidi – Author of the blog series, Expert/Research Consultant, Civic IDEA

    National Academy of Sciences – Another Cause of Concern in Sino-Georgian Relations

    During the past five years of intensive work revealing the PRC’s soft and hard power strategies jeopardizing Georgia’s national security, Civic IDEA has already published two reports covering China’s influence on Georgia’s academic, media and CSO sectors before, during, and after the emergence of the covid-19 pandemic. Today, we suggest another monitoring report from the Chinese cooperation and activities in Georgian Academia, though not related directly to the universities, but to the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia.

    Through personal correspondence and public information available on their official website, Civic IDEA has discovered several memorandums and cooperation agreements the National Academy of Sciences has signed with both state and private Chinese entities, as well as numerous events and activities following the advanced relations with China. We came across several interesting connections that have already been established between local chapters of the Academy of Science, as well as individual scientists under the auspices of the Academy and Chinese universities, which gives us the idea that the increased research and academic cooperation will only boost and the partnership will gain even more attachment in the future.

    See the full report 👇

    EU Commission’s fourth recommendation (anti-corruption policy) performance report

    Within the scope of the project, “Civil Monitoring of Accountability, Transparency and Anti-Corruption Activities within the Framework of the 12 Recommendations of the European Union,” hereby we share a performance monitoring report on the EU Commission’s fourth recommendation – (anti-corruption policy). The report has been prepared by the Virtual Democracy Academy in cooperation with Civic IDEA.

    The document reviews and scrutinizes Georgia’s present anti-corruption policy, as well as the Georgian government’s efforts to implement the Commission’s anti-corruption recommendations. The document will also further analyze the initiatives and actions of civil society and political opposition in relation to the fulfillment of the Commission’s 4th recommendation.

    The main findings of the report:

    • Fulfilling the 12 recommendations of the European Commission is one of the main challenges and obligations of the country. Despite the fact that the Government declared its full readiness to fulfill the mentioned obligations, as of today, Georgia has fully implemented only one recommendation.
    • The legislative changes carried out within the framework of the implementation of the fourth recommendation do not fully meet the request of the European Commission, which is caused by the fact that the law on the anti-corruption bureau cannot ensure that the anti-corruption bureau is equipped with all the main levers necessary to effectively fight corruption.
    • The shortcoming of the new anti-corruption bureau is also manifested in the fact that the institution does not have an investigative function, and the procedure for appointing the head of the anti-corruption bureau calls into question the institutional independence of the bureau.
    • The international practice of the anti-corruption bureau indicates that the assignment of the investigative mandate is critical for the agency’s effective functioning. Lithuania stands out as one of the best examples of this. The country, which has the same past as Georgia, was able to create an effective anti-corruption agency, which, thanks to its investigative mandate, successfully fights corruption at both the petty and elite levels.
    • The international experience of the countries shows that any effort taken to combat corruption would yield no benefits unless the bureau’s independence is also guaranteed. Furthermore, the achievements in the battle against corruption are more obvious in countries where the anti-corruption agency has a high degree of independence.
    • As a result, all legislative changes implemented by the authorities to fulfill the fourth recommendation leave the perception of formal fulfillment of the obligation. The anti-corruption bureau does not entirely share the work model of successful countries’ anti-corruption organizations, which includes equipping it with investigative functions.

    The project is implemented with financial support from the European Union and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and in coordination with the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia.

    For the full report, please visit  👇


    We, the people of Georgia, strongly oppose the bill initiated by the members of the Parliamentary Majority, also endorsed by the Speaker of Parliament and other MPs. We declare that the attempts to adopt this Russian bill attack not only the independent civil society organizations and the critical media, but the people of Georgia themselves.

    This bill aims to leave defenseless the abused children and women; people with disabilities, minorities, scientists, workers, and the youth; to not provide assistance to the socially vulnerable families, farmers, miners, internally displaced, homeless, illegally laid off, detained, and other people fighting for their rights; to mute the voice of the people living in the peripheries of the country that can only communicate their troubles through the independent media.

    This draft legislation acts as a response to the numerous facts of violence, corruption, lawlessness, and arbitrary execution of the laws that we, the civil society and the critical media, study and make public.

    When Putin adopted a similar law in Russia, many organizations chose to disband rather than comply with its requirements. Those that continued to operate faced increased control, harassment, and repressions. This is not the type of governance that we have fought for many years to achieve, and Russian law is certainly not the type of governance that Georgian citizens aspire to have in our country.

    Adopting this bill will amount to an attack on the key Georgian values of dignity, independence and solidarity with our communities and fellow people. Adopting this bill will amount to an onslaught not only against civil society and our democracy but will also damage our aspirations of Euro-Atlantic development. This law will obstruct our path to membership of the EU as this law was found illegal in the EU. Moreover, the execution of this law will be impossible without causing insurmountable harm to hundreds of thousands of citizens of Georgia.

    Legislative Brief by Civic IDEA  regarding the “Foreign agents’” draft law  initiated by the parliamentary group “The People’s Power”

    Legislative Brief by Civic IDEA  regarding the “Foreign agents’” draft law  initiated by the parliamentary group “The People’s Power”

    In the beginning, it must be unequivocally said that the draft law is dangerous and discriminatory and significantly distances us from the declared goal of joining the European Union; therefore, it goes against the constitution and the choice of the Georgian people.

    Today, the initiation and support of such a law by the ruling party in Georgia, the content and goals of which have been negatively evaluated by all structures and all member states of the European Union, and which the Court of Justice of the European Union has declared[1] to be contrary to the legislation of the European Union, clearly represents another attempt by the Georgian authorities to distance the country from the perspective of European integration.

    Since applying for candidate status, this is not their first step, which goes contrary to the purpose of EU membership. However, we can undoubtedly say that among the anti-integration steps taken during the year-long process, the adoption of this bill will be the most glaring proof of the ruling party’s anti-EU and isolationist policy.

    At the same time, we should not forget that the main inspirer and first initiator of such legislation were the Russian Federation, where the enactment of the law resulted in mass persecution, arrests, and in many cases expulsion of non-governmental organizations, their founders, and employees.

    Why is the draft law incompatible with democracy and EU standards?

    The bill is unequivocally anti-European, or more precisely anti-EU.

    Not only experts and non-governmental organizations but also the International Court have unambiguous positions on this issue. Its analog, the Hungarian law, was recognized by the Court of Justice of the European Union as contrary to EU laws and other multiple acts in 2020 (in the case of Commission vs. Hungary). It is to be mentioned that Hungary annulled legislation 2021.

    The Court held that “by imposing obligations of registration, declaration, and publication on certain categories of civil society organizations directly or indirectly receiving support from abroad exceeding a certain threshold and providing for the possibility of applying penalties to organizations that do not comply with those obligations, Hungary had introduced discriminatory and unjustified restrictions with regard to both the organizations at issue and the persons granting them such support.”

    The Luxembourg court found that the law –

    – Is discriminatory;

    – Violates the right to freedom of association;

    – Violates the right to privacy and privacy of personal information;

    The law contradicts one of the fundamental rights of the creation and existence of the European Union – Free movement of capital – the transactions covered by the Transparency Law fell within the scope of the concept of ‘movements of capital’ in Article 63(1) TFEU and that the law in question constitutes a restrictive measure of a discriminatory nature.

    Why did the court find multiple violations of the law and why is such legislation anti-democratic?

    1. It is discriminatory for the following reasons:

    a. It differentiates organizations with identical mandates and activities and imposes restrictions only on one segment of operating private entities, NGOs on a discriminatory basis.

    It is unclear on what principle non-profit organizations are selected for such “transparency scrutiny” and not LTDs, LEPLs, state agencies, or any other legal entity with similar activities and the same sources of funding.

    Financial resources raised by non-governmental organizations are the same as investments by LTDs or legal entities under public law. Both create jobs or delivered services and goods with this money.

    For example, let us consider the case of three organizations:

    – The law firm (ltd)

    – Public Legal Aid Bureau (a legal entity under public law)

    – Legal aid center of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (NGO)

    All three organizations are engaged in absolutely identical activities, providing legal consultations, representing persons in court or with other bodies, assisting in preparing legal documents, and others. The only difference between them is that one takes money for this service from the client, the second receives funding from the budget, and the third will seek financial support from outside the country and will serve the citizens of Georgia for free with the help of foreign donors.

    Meanwhile, we often have cases when within the framework of different donor programs, like, small business support and state institutional strengthening programs, it may turn out that the source of funding is the same; for instance, USAID can be the one that finances the non-governmental organizations, but the difference is that the first still continues to receive payment for services from clients, the second receives money from the budget and the third one continues to serve the people in need free of charge and entirely selflessly.

    What does the new bill say?

    Despite this uniformity, both in terms of activities and funding, only an NGO has to claim the status of “agent of a foreign country”, and all obligations apply only to them.

    Therefore, it is probably not surprising that the EU court unquestionably established the discriminatory nature of the law in a similar Hungarian case.

    b. The authors of the draft law say that such organizations influence public opinion and the decision-making process, which is the basis for the need for new legislation and the equalization of non-governmental organizations with political public entities.

    This argument is not one of a kind either since the Hungarian legislation indicated the same argument, although they forgot to draw a sharp line. The argument is not unique because the Luxembourg court discussed this matter and unequivocally determined that, in reality, regardless of the nature of the organization’s activity, the law always applied to non-governmental organizations if 20 percent of their funding comes from foreign states or foundations, and that is why it is discriminatory.

    If we judge on the example of the Young Lawyers’ Association, how does the law address that? Will their legal aid or education programs and the resources used for them separated from the rest of their activities and declared accordingly?

    Or to exclude discrimination again and again, what do the authors of the law say about the construction companies financed by the European investment who lobby for the construction code and standards, or pharmaceutical companies and others? Are they obligated to declare and affix the status of “agent of a foreign country” to their objects? Or, what does the law say about legal entities under public law? Due to similar activities, do they also become carriers of the status of “agent of a foreign country”?

    The prohibition of “money laundering, financing of terrorism, and organized crime” established by numerous international documents, as well as all measures that equal to such actions, are the only cases where any restrictions, additional registration obligations, or other requirements can be considered legitimate.

    c. The draft law also contradicts the norms of freedom of association recognized by the Constitution and International law.

    2. Initiators of the draft, as well as ruling party representatives and their supporters, claim similarity with the US law on Foreign agents and by that challenge legitimacy of the controversy around it. It is to be said clearly that the proposed legislation is absolutely distinctive from the US FARA both in terms of the purpose of the law and the scope of the issues covered. Here are some of the issues to be outlined.

    The subjects of the proposed Georgian legislation are exclusively only NGOs and media organizations, while FARA does not discriminate by type of organization and is purpose oriented;

     Georgian legislation labels all NGOs and media entities as “foreign Agents” as long as 20 percent of their finances come from foreign sources regardless of the nature and purpose of the activities, even purely humanitarian aid delivery NGOs will be declared as foreign agents;

    The subject of US FARA is anyone (legal or physical person) as long as they are “paid lobbyists” of a foreign principle “to influence the public decision-making process in both the legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government”;

    To make this difference even more clear here is an example. The Georgian government usually has paid lobbyists in Washington to lobby the interests of Georgia with the US government. All of them are registered under the FARA regulations, and transparency rules established by US law make it possible not only for the American taxpayers but also for us to see those contracts and activities carried out in the name of Georgia by hired lobbyists. In most cases, those companies are american Law firms or PR agencies and almost never non-profits. So, a law firm in the US hired by the Georgian government to lobby Georgia’s interests in Senate goes through the registration process and falls under the category of foreign agents. This is all US FARA regulates.

    Now, the proposed Georgian draft law says that only NGOs or media organizations say the Georgian Red Cross, needs to go through registration and becomes foreign agent as soon as they get money from e.g. Swiss government for humanitarian aid to be distributed among IDPs from South Ossetia. But if there is a Georgian Law firm representing Iranian companies and lobbying on their behalf to avoid sanctions and ease regulations with the government of Georgia, they do not fall under the regulation of the law and do not need to be transparent about funding or their activities.

    We believe that these two cases show the real difference and also the real reason behind the proposed legislation. Not the disclosure of foreign influence operations in Georgia and the funding behind it, but a witch hunt against NGOs.

    If we imagine for a moment that the draft law will be passed and implemented on a full scale without discrimination and will declare all organizations funded by international donor organizations as “agents of foreign influence”, we will see similar inscriptions on the uniforms of the Georgian military next to the Georgian flag, on the equipment of the Georgian policemen, on the buildings and structures of all secondary schools, on the complete set of weapons of the country. Moreover, scientists of almost all universities, researchers who can continue their activities precisely because of the existence of such grants, a significant part of students who have scholarships from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Erasmus, or other similar programs, doctors and patients who receive medicines or medical care free of charge within the framework of such assistance should be declared foreign agents as well. It needs to be said that if it were not for the efforts and programs of our strategic partner countries, and especially the donor organizations registered in the USA, we might have insurmountable problems of fighting for survival due to mass hunger, “C” hepatitis, and many other reasons.

    Despite all the above-mentioned legal arguments, which are already known to government officials, the initiation of the project and the silence of the ruling party on its Russian and discriminatory nature once again confirm the real goal of the Georgian Dream, to use all means at its disposal to delay the process of rapprochement with the European Union and complete de-Europeanization of the country.

    The answer to the question frequently asked by government supporters about why should the ruling party do this and what is its interest is more trivial because the Georgian Dream, like any other party leaning towards authoritarianism, is afraid of Europe, which brings democracy, freedom, an environment free from discrimination, fear and state terror.

    We appeal to the opposition parties in the parliament to ensure a quick and complete delivery of information about the mentioned bill to all our partner countries and international organizations, to use the resources of various parliamentary assemblies and monitoring committees to make the issue of political responsibility of the government team inevitable in case the law is adopted.

    Monitoring report on media coverage of the implementation of the EU 12-point plan

    As part of the project “Civil Monitoring of Accountability, Transparency and Anti-Corruption Activities within the Framework of the 12 Recommendations of the European Union,” hereby we present a report on the monitoring of media coverage that has been prepared by the Virtual Democracy Academy in cooperation with Civic IDEA.

    The media monitoring aimed to study:

    How frequently and in what tone (positive/negative/neutral) have televisions and online media covered the process of implementing the 12 recommendations;

    Whether according to the tone of the coverage, there was any bias towards any issue or a position on the part of televisions and online media;

    To what extent the work on the plan was at the center of media attention and in what form was the information distributed to the public;

    Whether a certain balance was maintained between various points of the recommendations in disseminating information to the public or if the media prepared stories and analytical materials only on some specific points;

    Whether the balance was maintained in communicating to the public the positions of different political entities, etc.

    The media monitoring took place from the 1st of October to 30 December, 2022.

    The main findings of the monitoring:

    ✅ The monitoring showed that of 12 recommendations, the issue of “deoligarchization” and all the relevant work on the “deoligarchization” law proved to be the most popular among Georgian media organizations. The mentioned subject was covered most often and with different interpretations by various media outlets. The media’s interest in the subject increased as in the proposed legislation, the owners of media outlets, along with other persons, became the target of the proposed legislation;

    ✅ Broadcasting media is extremely polarized. Some broadcasters are biased in favour of the government and its positions, while others are biased in favour of the opposition; Tmedi TV covered the EU recommendations extensively. However, the issue itself was not presented to the viewers on many sides and in a balanced manner. The channel was biased towards the government and, therefore, the issue was covered in a tone supporting the government’s position. However, the opposition was only mentioned negatively and as a player impeding the country’s progress toward European integration. The TV presenters and journalists did not shy away from a cynical attitude towards the opposition, nongovernmental sector, MEPs, and ambassadors. The TV channel did not invite representatives of the opposition party to its programs (only the political party Girchi and the party Citizens were invited);

    TV Pirveli covered the topic of the 12 recommendations of the European Union in a weak and unilateral way, and it is just to note that the representatives of the government, the ruling party refused to visit the TV company. The channel carried only the opposition opinions in its talk shows, while the government’s position was offered to viewers in its news broadcasts, albeit in a negative context. TV Pirveli strongly criticizes the government, and the Government’s European integration policy has been regarded as negative – obstructing the country’s progress;

    Palitranews TV stood out with a more balanced and neutral tone when presenting the 12-point plan. They covered the views of both the government and the opposition, as well as representatives of the nongovernmental sector. However, most of the news were trivial statements of the government or the opposition representatives. The subject of the 12 recommendations for a few times was the main topic of programs in political “talk shows”, and these programs were balanced in content. No bias towards any political party was apparent on the channel while covering the issues. Representatives from different political groups participated in the programs and diversity of opinions was more or less preserved. However, it should be noted that often the last guest on the program was a government representative. There were no debates on the channel;

    Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has spent considerable time on the issue of obtaining the candidate status and the process of implementing the recommendations of the European Union. The broadcaster had several attempts to conduct the coverage of the issue with less intensity, but at the same time – in an unbiased way. However, it was characterized by a tendency toward the government’s positions and by more or less loyal attitudes. In addition, they frequently devoted time to the positions of government representatives, both in the main news program and in political talk shows. There is a tendency on the channel to end the stories with assessments by the leaders of the ruling party, the Georgian Dream;

    ✅ Strong political polarization was less felt in online media compared to TV media. However, one of the three selected agencies – the pia.ge stood out for its loyal attitudes towards the government, by a positive tone of coverage, while tabula.ge expressed less interest in presenting the process in general and was more characterized by a negative tone of coverage. As far as interpressnews.ge is concerned, it covered almost all news from all parties. The tone of the coverage was mostly neutral, albeit trivial;

    ✅ The biggest challenge of the online media was the superficial coverage of the work on the 12 recommendations; The news agencies selected for monitoring were not able to cover the issues in depth.

    For the full report, please visit 👇

    Civic IDEA joined the Freedom House initiative “The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity”

    Civic IDEA has joined the Freedom House initiative “The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity”, to support the Iranian protesters who marched in the streets demanding freedom and democracy in Iran.

    Read and sign the “The Iranian Struggle for Freedom: A Call for Global Solidarity”, here: 👇