14 Mar 2024 14:11

Kyrgyz parliament endorses bill on NGOs designated foreign agents

BISHKEK. March 14 (Interfax) - The Kyrgyz parliament passed in the third reading a bill on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at a plenary session on Thursday.

The bill introduces the concept of "an NGO that performs the functions of a foreign representative."

Sixty-six members voted for it, five voted against.

The document has been submitted to the president for signing.

The Kyrgyz presidential administration pledges that the bill on foreign agents does not pose any threat to halt the activities of civil society, and that civil activists and NGOs are an integral part of democratic life.

"No one will be deprived of their constitutional rights to be involved in the decision-making process. The only thing they are required to do is to clearly indicate the sources of funding, but as you and I know, they are required to do so by the grantors themselves," the Kyrgyz presidential administration said on Thursday.

On February 14, the Kyrgyz parliament submitted the bill on NGOs for reconsideration. Under the bill, non-profit organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in political activities will be given the status of a "foreign representative" and will be included in a special register. The bill proposed introducing criminal liability in the form of fines and imprisonment of up to ten years for establishing an NGO that infringes on the personality and rights of citizens.

Following the reconsideration of the bill, the specialized committee dropped the provision regarding criminal liability.

The decision was preceded by correspondence between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov.

Blinken expressed concern about the bill being considered by the Kyrgyz parliament. "In its current form this law threatens Kyrgyz citizens' access to vital services such as health care and education through programs run by NGOs with support from the U.S. government and international partners," he said.

Japarov explained in a response message that the bill aims to clarify and streamline the activities of NGOs operating in Kyrgyzstan and urged Washington not to interfere in the country's internal affairs.

"Society and the state must see where, from what foreign sources and for what purposes the funding of this or that non-governmental/non-profit organization is coming from. Our requirements for them are clear and supported in society, fully consistent with both the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and our international obligations. However, the representatives of the so-called free mass media and NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, received with hostility the draft laws on foreign agents, mass media and non-governmental organizations initiated by state bodies," Japarov said.