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Transparency International raises concerns over the "Foreign Agents Act" in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska entity

Transparency International strongly denounces the recent law proposal in Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia Herzegovina, which would mandate civil society organisations receiving support from foreign entities to register as “agents of foreign influence.” If approved, this law would significantly limit the ability for civil society organisations to engage in advocacy and awareness-raising, as these would be deemed as ‘political activity.’ The latter could include any issues related to corruption, public accountability and transparency.

Transparency International urges Republika Srpska’s Assembly to halt the adoption of this legislation and calls on the international community and the European Union to put pressure on the Republika Srpska government to refrain from its approval. Enacting this law would undermine democratic principles and contradicts Bosnia and Herzegovina's recent steps and commitment towards EU membership.

The definition of foreign influence will cover various forms of support, including both financial and non-financial resources from foreign entities. The law also gives the RS entity’s Ministry of Justice discretionary power to monitor NGOs' activities across Bosnia and Herzegovina – an overreach of its jurisdictionand gives it the faculty to propose banning them based on unspecified criteria without legal recourse if they are deemed political.

This legislative move by the Republika Srpska government stifles criticism and threatens freedom of expression, alongside other recent laws, such as the recriminalization of defamation, and the initiated drafting on Law on Media.

This legislation mirrors other controversial “foreign agent” laws aimed at arbitrarily targeting government critics. Hungary, which is now subject to the EU’s infringement procedure, recently passed a similar law that allows the newly established Sovereignty Protection Office to investigate and prosecute people accused of undermining the country's sovereignty, which is now subject to the EU’s infringement procedure. This is happening after the previous attempt in 2017 failed due to the EU Court of Justice ruling. It also follows the oppressive legislation adopted in Russia in 2012 and expanded in 2022, and a similar proposal in Georgia presented by the ruling party in 2023, currently being discussed. These laws faced broad condemnation from the international community.

Ivana Korajlić, Executive Director of Transparency International Bosnia Herzegovina, said:

“Reporting is already regulated by the existing laws, which shows that the intent behind this law is not to enhance transparency but rather to stigmatise and silence critical civil society voices. In practice, the draft provisions would ban any advocacy action towards the institutions and public officials and eventually would remove civil society from the public sphere."

François Valérian, Chair of Transparency International, said:

The intent of the government of Republika Srpska to target civil society organisations that openly receive foreign resources signals a troubling regression in democratic principles and a blatant disregard for fundamental freedoms. It opens the door to unchecked corruption and abuse of power. If the EU wants to do more than pay lip service to democracy, it must take a strong stance and ask Republika Srpska to withdraw the law from the debate.”