Q&A: After years of intimidation, a Georgian pro-democracy NGO faces the ultimate threat

"Traitor of the country". Nino Dolidze, director of ISFED, private apartment entrance
"Traitor of the country". Nino Dolidze, director of ISFED, private apartment entrance Copyright Nino Dolidze
Copyright Nino Dolidze
By Sergio Cantone
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A civil society activist tells Euronews how Georgia's ruling party began creating a hostile environment for foreign-funded NGOs long before the passage of the so-called "Russian law".


Georgia is being roiled by some of the largest and angriest protests in its modern history after its parliament passed a law forcing NGOs receiving substantial support from abroad to register as "foreign-funded organisations".

Opponents decried the Foreign Influence Law as the "Russian law" because it resembles legislation imposed by the Kremlin. The law marks a major blow against pro-democracy NGOs working against electoral corruption. Yet, their troubles did not begin with the law's passage.

Nino Dolidze is the director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, or ISFED, which monitors the electoral process in Georgia. Because its work is partly funded by the EU and the US, it will have to register officially as a foreign-funded organisation — a so-called "foreign agent".

She tells Euronews how the ruling party has been creating a hostile environment against foreign-funded NGOs since well before the approval of the so-called "Russian law", with her and others on the sharp end of threats, disturbing phone calls, and smear campaigning.

Euronews: Why is your organisation among the first NGOs that will have to register as a 'foreign influenced' agency?

Nino Dolidze: Elections are one of the most painful topics for the government. We are a target because of the upcoming parliamentary elections (in October), and they have been trying to discredit us, undermining our national credibility and our international trust.

Since we receive funds from the EU and the US, we will have to register. And we said we would never register in this public record because this is against our dignity. We only represent our country’s interests and are not willing to register to be labelled as some kind of foreign agent.

Yet, according to this law, even if we don’t register, they (the authorities) can unilaterally investigate and monitor us.

The bill will affect many civil society organisations, but they will start with the election monitoring ones, I'm sure.

Nino Doladze, right, with Pawel Herczynski, left, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia
Nino Doladze, right, with Pawel Herczynski, left, Ambassador of the European Union to GeorgiaISFED

Euronews: How do you know?

Nino Dolidze: Because they have mentioned our names several times. The prime minister has been mentioning ISFED and many others. We are already targeted.

As a director, I personally have been targeted many times with smear campaigns. There have been many TV shows directed against me. 

In recent days, I have received threatening phone calls. In front of my apartment, at the entrance, they hung posters on the wall calling me "traitor" and "enemy".

Euronews: Is this law really rejected by all the Georgian people? Is there any data?

Nino Dolidze: There is no polling on the law, but the demo that took place was one of the biggest that has ever taken place in Georgia.

We saw demonstrations in 2003 and 2012, and then the governments changed. But this time, there is continuity across all the fields of society, not only in Tbilisi but also in other big cities like Batumi and Kutaisi.

Smear campaigning against NGOs in Georgia
Smear campaigning against NGOs in GeorgiaNino Dolidze

Euronews: Since you said that you will not register, you must pay the administrative fine of €8,000. And after that, will you close? Will you leave the country?

Nino Dolidze: Yes, in the end, we will have to close the organisation. 


This is the problem in Georgia. We don’t want to operate in a situation where we are called foreign agents. 

So we will have to close, and there will be no civil society organisation in Georgia scrutinising the government.

Euronews: Let me try to be naïve. What problem does it pose for you to operate under these circumstances? The law does not ban NGOs. It just requires them to register. Why should it be a risk?

Nino Dolidze: The risk is our stigmatisation. We cannot operate if we are called foreign agents because the beneficiaries of our activities will no longer work with us.

We are already feeling some distance. We are used to working with different (state) services. We will have this label of "enemies of the country" because we work for foreign countries.


In Georgia, it means being a spy. An enemy because we have a Soviet past, and we know what it means to be called a “foreign agent”. That’s what happened in Russia: the NGOs registered, and then they closed and left the country or were detained.

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