TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgian Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze is asking parliament to change the recently introduced party finance rules so that they guarantee the freedom of speech more.

He said this during a bureau session on February 20, responding to a petition by rights groups and media representatives, which want the new rules changed because they say it violates freedom of speech.

The law on political unions of citizens was changed in December last year. The new rules are not only stricter when it comes to how political parties get their financing, but they apply the rules originally intended for political parties to potentially any group, company or even individual who is directly or indirectly connected to a political party.

Groups fear that the vagueness of the legal definition opens the law up for interpretation and may lead to them being arbitrarily applied. This could create a chilling effect and discourage people from engaging in political activism. One of the restrictions of someone found to be ‘related’ to politics is that he or she, or the organization in question, won’t be allowed to receive financing from a non-Georgian citizen or a legal person acting in Georgia.

Bakradze said there is a political will to guarantee the freedom of speech and freedom of expression with the above mentioned law, but it would be better if this guarantee were clearer so groups and the media will no longer be concerned.