10/03/2023: Transparency International
This week, we at Transparency International faced an unexpected turn as the Russian Federation announced it would designate our organisation as “undesirable”. It claimed that we “interfere in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation, which poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order”
. Corruption is an issue that knows no borders. It is the essential mission of Transparency International to call attention to and fight against it everywhere. It is our specific mandate to combat transnational corruption, when deficiencies in one country enable abuses in others – to global detriment.
Daniel Eriksson, CEO of Transparency International
While we didn’t anticipate this development, it’s not surprising given our work to combat high-level, transnational corruption. The announcement comes just after our statement on 24 February that called on leading economies to target illicit wealth of Russian kleptocrats and get more serious about accountability. We certainly didn’t get into this line of work to please governments, and this isn’t the first time we’ve faced attempts to silence us – though it is the first we have been officially banned. We are currently determining what exactly this means for our work, the safety of colleagues within our movement and how we can best move forward. If you’re reading this from Russia and worried about how this might impact you, scroll down for some guidance based on what we know so far.
But we guarantee you our work won’t stop, and we are not alone in this fight.Since 2015, Russia has labelled as “undesirable” a number of foreign civil society and media organisations – most recently the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Meduza – to force them to stop all operations within the country and block Russian citizens from supporting or accessing their work.The Russian government has also used its 2012 “foreign agent” law to target national organisations it accuses of operating under the influence of other countries or entities. Transparency International Russia was already labelled as such in 2015, and in October 2022 they went further, designating its executive director Ilia Shumanov individually. Yet Russia isn’t the only country using such laws to silence critics and suppress civic space. Over the last couple weeks, the Georgian parliament was seriously considering a similar “foreign agent” bill. It would have required organisations that receive 20 per cent or more of their funding from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence”, subjecting them to complicated compliance measures and harsh fines for violations. Condemnation of the proposed law was swift, with 400 Georgian civil society organisations – including our chapter – signing a letter against it, and statements from international watchdogs calling for its rejection.
Photo: Vano Shlamov/AFP
On Tuesday, after the parliament approved the bill on its first reading, the Georgian people took to the streets, with thousands in the capital Tbilisi facing down water cannons and pepper spray, chanting “no to the Russian law”. Many see the bill as clear proof that the government led by the Georgian Dream Party is aligned with authoritarian Russia, directly copying its methods to undermine independent checks and consolidate power.In response to the powerful protests, the government was forced to halt the bill, which was confirmed by legislators when they formally rejected it on Friday morning. Fears remain that the government will attempt to reintroduce a similar bill in the future, as their statements didn’t inspire confidence that they were truly backing down. But for now, this is a victory for the people of Georgia, who kept up the fight despite arrests and reports of mistreatment in police custody. The government clearly underestimated the peoples’ ability to recognise when politicians aren’t acting with integrity – and to unite against it.Today we salute the people of Georgia, and all those around the world who won’t back down in the face of repressive policies. We all work together to call out corruption and injustice, and hold power to account.
We ask our supporters within Russia to protect yourselves against prosecution, which means you cannot show support for our work financially or on any public forums.
We cannot take any financial support from within Russia, so you unfortunately aren’t able to donate to Transparency International.Additionally, those within Russia who show public support for our work may be at risk – which includes both Russian citizens and anyone visiting the country.
You should take down any references to Transparency International from your social media and other public feeds. You should “unshare” any of our posts and remove other references, including in relation to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). “Likes” or “comments” are looked upon with less scrutiny, but we encourage you to be careful.
CPI 2022 for Eastern Europe & Central Asia: Growing security risks and authoritarianism threaten progress against corruption (January 2023)The CPI 2022 listed both Georgia and Russia as countries to watch, and highlighted the slide toward authoritarianism across Eastern Europe as well as the Georgian Dream Party’s repression of dissent.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Reject criminalisation of defamation
In another attempt to block criticism, the Republika Srpska entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina introduced amendments to the criminal code to re-criminalise defamation, a measure international human rights bodies continue to advise against.
Transparency International designated as “undesirable” by Russian Federation
Transparency International’s CEO, Daniel Eriksson, responded directly to the designation by Russia, reiterating commitment to the fight against corruption.
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