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13.02.2012 10:32

“This Concerns You” – NGOs and Media Organizations Request Change of Law

Maia Tsiklauri

“Realizing the significance of fair and free elections we claim the legislative amendments adopted in December 2011 to be categorically unacceptable, which limit civil activities, right for property, freedom of expression and political activity, hampers the democratic development of the country and puts unjustifiable responsibility on voters,” Georgian NGOs and media organizations state in February 13 petition.  They are protesting against the amendments made to the Law on Political Unions and the Election Code and Criminal Code adopted in December 2011. 

According to Magda Popiashvili, head of the Coalition for Freedom of Choice, the petition has been signed by the following NGOs -  International Fund for Fair Elections and Elections, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, International Transparency Georgia and different media outlets, including – Kavkasia TV anda Maestro TV, newspapers Rezonansi, Akhali Taoba and Kviris Kronika.  Several Internet outlets have also signed the petitions. 

The petition signatory organizations believe that the given legislative amendments are aimed at threatening the society. 

“The essence of the law is:  think well before saying, or doing anything; minimum – you will have problems and maximum – you may be imprisoned!” – the petition says and clarifies how the newly adopted amendments limit different rights. 

For example, the signatory organizations believe that the right for expression and property is limited as follows:

- “If you work for a non-governmental organization and a representative of your NGO states the position not liking a certain political figure/entity and believes that it is against the interests of the country, your organization will be left without funding from a donor.” 

- “Your friend, or family member is a citizen of a foreign country, lives abroad and helps you financially.  If the Chamber of Control decides you are related to a certain political party, or a politically active person, you will not have the right to receive financial assistance from a friend of a family member who is a foreign citizen.” 

- The petition also says that in case of receiving assistance, or asking for assistance from a political party, or a politically active person a citizen may be sentenced to 3 years of prison.  For example, if a representative of a political party approaches your friend’s mother and proposes to write an appeal for funding a surgery to the Social Service of Municipality and the governing political party; writing such an appeal may you’re your mother’s friend up to 3 years of imprisonment,” Petition signatory organizations claim. 

- Signatory organizations point out that with the new Law the Chamber of Control is granted unconstitutional and limitless authority.  If by Georgian Constitution the Chamber of Control was obliged to audit only budgetary finances, with the new legislation it is also authorized to control revenues and expenditures of private persons and private organizations.  As results, “supporting a political party may possibly become the reason for the Chamber of Control to put a lien on your property.”  For example, “if you are a businessman and support a certain political party the Chamber of Control may count you related to that party and put a lien on the property without appealing to Court.” 

- The signatory organizations believe that by the new legislation, along with common citizens political parties also face unequal conditions, as if representatives of a certain political party meet with your neighbourhood, listen to their problems (unroofed houses, disordered yards, problems with water supply and etc.) and after the given party leaves and a certain company, even without mentioning the name of that political party, starts solving those problems in your neighbourhood, the given company will be counted as related to that political party and coinciding measures will be taken in relation to that company and political party. 

- Still, the Petition clarifies that if a candidate from the governing party comes to your neighborhood and listens to your problems after a company contracted by the same municipality and by funding from local budget tries to solve your problems; it will be counted as part of the State policy. 

The signatory organizations state that “the vagueness of the new regulations has already created the basis for its ambiguous and absurd interpretation.” 

For example, if “a person has been employed by an organization for years has been receiving monthly financial assistance from the philanthropist who now has political ambitions, the employed person fears that further receiving of such financial assistance may be counted as support to a political force.  Accordingly, at the beginning of the year the given employee gave a written consent not to express political position and will remain neutral in future, when signing a renewed control for request of further financial assistance.” 

Anyone willing is free to sign the petition.  Public signing will allegedly be held during this week.  The initiative group plans different types of activities in framework of the This Concerns You campaign.  

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