Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament passes repressive ‘foreign agent’ bill

Central Asia Solidarity Groups is very concerned about the recent developments around the legislation affecting civil society in Kyrgyzstan as they challenge the efforts to promote a democratic Central Asia with a strong, active, and inclusive civil society. This is a harsh and unjust bill that aims to tightly control the work of civil society, with special scrutiny on those that receive foreign funding. The bill closely resembles the so-called “foreign agents” law of Russia; it is a continued alarming practice that aims to control civic freedoms and independent activism in Kyrgyzstan.

The new bill, approved in the third and final hearing, would require civil society organizations to be marked as “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funding and restrict their operational activities if they are engaged in “political activities.” The move is part of growing authoritarianism taking hold in Kyrgyzstan. Its likeness to Russian legislation, known for its broad reach and targeting not only civil society organizations but also human rights groups, media organizations, and individual activists, is alarming. The legislation is selectively applied to stigmatize and ultimately silence the voices of those critical to government policy. 

The adoption of this legislation marks a critical point for Kyrgyzstan, which was once celebrated as the country with the most vibrant civil society in Central Asia. By adopting the law, Kyrgyzstan runs the risk not only of damaging its democratic credentials but also of alienating donors and international partners who express concerns about the law’s potential effects on human rights and freedom of speech.

Numerous human rights groups and global institutions have raised concerns about this law. They suggest it could burden NGOs with unnecessary administrative hurdles and unfairly label them as influenced by foreign interests, affecting their ability to work effectively and risks restricting cooperation opportunities. This kind of suspicious and controlling environment goes directly against the very foundations of civil society in Kyrgyzstan, which has been advocating for an open, accountable, and protected environment.

In light of the recent restrictive bill, Central Asia Solidarity Groups joins the concerns expressed by the international community regarding the implications of this legislation. We will continue supporting our partners in Kyrgyzstan as they navigate through this difficult time.