The Law on “Foreign Agents” Has Not Yet Been Adopted in Republika Srpska

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While covering protests in Georgia against the proposed “foreign agents” law, a web portal mistakenly reported in its headline that such a law had already been adopted in Republika Srpska.

Photo: Jelger Groeneveld/Flickr

On May 14, 2024, the Georgian parliament passed a law on “transparency of foreign influence”, according to the BBC. The report also mentions that the President of Georgia has the power to veto the law, but there is a possibility that Parliament could override this veto, thereby enacting the law. Radio Free Europe notes that the law was approved with 84 votes in favor and 30 against.

The law foresees, among other things, that organizations that receive more than 20% of funds from abroad will have to be registered as “foreign agents”, that is, “organizations that promote the interests of a foreign power”, as emphasized in the aforementioned BBC report.

The draft law has met with sharp criticism from the opposition, activists and citizens in Georgia, who compare it to a similar law in force in Russia. At the time of the vote in the Parliament, thousands of people protested in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

In Russia, the law on “foreign agents” has been in force since 2012, which treats numerous organizations financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. The law is often described as an attack on freedom of expression and civil activism in that country. You can read more about it in an analysis conducted by Radio Free Europe.

Protests against the Georgian law have been held in Tbilisi since mid-April, and there was also violence when police forces started using tear gas and water cannons against the gathered demonstrators. The violence was condemned by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. In a statement issued on May 1, 2024, she said that she was “monitoring the situation in Georgia with concern”, and pointed out that the EU “has also clearly expressed its concerns regarding the law on foreign agents”.

Police violence at the protests held on April 30 this year was also a topic of regional media (12). Their reports stated that the police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. In some of the regional media reports on the protests in Georgia, it was pointed out that a similar law is being adopted in Republika Srpska (12).

On April 30, 2024, the web portal N1 published an article with the following title:

(VIDEO) Real chaos happened in Georgia because of a law like the one adopted by RS

The article provides details from the protests held on April 30 and the recorded violence against the gathered opponents of the law – without any mention of a similar law in the RS.

Has Republika Srpska Adopted a Law Similar to Georgia’s?

In March 2023, the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, announced that a law on the activities of non-governmental organizations would be proposed in that entity, which, he said, “will be identical to the American one”, to the extent that it will be “literally copied”. On September 28, 2023, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska (NSRS) adopted the Draft Law on a special register and publicity of the work of non-profit organizations. The draft law was approved by the RS Government in March 2024. NSRS scheduled a session for May 22, 2024, and the proposal of the session agenda for that day features the proposal of this law.

The “American law” that Dodik was talking about refers to the law in the United States of America, which is known as FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act). This law does not apply to the regulation of the work of non-governmental organizations, but to individuals and legal entities that act within the country on behalf of or represent the interests of “foreign patrons”, and this is not every non-profit organization that receives financial resources from abroad.

Raskrinkavanje already reported about how the announcement of the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations in RS was incorrectly presented in an analysis published on April 17, 2023, which you can find here.

The draft law on the special register and publicity of the work of non-profit organizations in RS was criticized by representatives of the non-governmental sector, as well as international organizations, considering it repressive and disastrous for a democratic society. The Draft Law, available on the website of the Government of the RS, defines the agent of foreign influence as “a non-profit organization that is financially or otherwise supported by foreign entities and deals with political activities or other activities related to political organizing and activities aimed at jeopardizing democracy, violating the integrity of Republika Srpska”.

What Does the Legislative Process Look Like in Republika Srpska?

The procedure for passing laws in Republika Srpska is explained on the official website of the National Assembly of RS. The proposal for a law in RS can be submitted by the deputies of NSRS, the Government of RS, the president of RS or 3,000 voters who refer it to the president of NSRS for the procedure. After the procedures in various commissions, the draft law is discussed at the plenary session of NSRS. If it receives the necessary majority of votes, the draft law is accepted. This initiates further steps, such as refinement or public discussion. After that, the law proposal is created and put on the agenda for voting.

If it receives the majority of votes in NSRS, the proposal or draft law is sent to the Council of Peoples of RS, which can initiate the procedure for determining the vital national interest. When the law passes the Council, with different procedures in relation to whether or not the procedure for determining the national interest has been initiated, it is submitted to the president of the entity to declare it as an act, which is called a decree. Upon publication in the Official Gazette of RS, after it has been promulgated by the president of the entity, the law enters into force.

A schematic representation of the process of adopting laws in RS is available on the following link.

Therefore, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska voted for the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations, and the Government of RS approved the Draft Law. However, it has not yet passed all the steps to be declared a law.

In accordance with the stated facts, we evaluate the claim from the headline published on the web portal N1 suggesting that a law similar to the one protested in Georgia was adopted in Republika Srpska as a manipulation of the facts. The draft was adopted by NSRS, and the law proposal was approved by the Government of RS, but the law has not yet been adopted. Since the same article does not state that the law was adopted in RS, we rate the title as clickbait.

(Author: Mladen Lakić,