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October 06, 2023

Rep. Schiff Introduces Bill To Protect Individuals From Harassment By Foreign Governments

Washington, D.C. — Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) re-introduced legislation to bolster the prosecution and oversight of transnational repression – efforts by foreign governments to harass, intimidate, or harm individuals beyond their own borders, including in the United States, in order to silence or coerce persons who oppose or are critical of a government.

“My legislation will give the U.S. government the tools it needs to protect individuals and their families who have chosen to enjoy free and safe lives and punish foreign actors who try to enforce their tyranny within our borders,” said Rep. Schiff. “I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to protect fundamental rights and freedoms both at home and abroad.”

“Writers and artists around the world face continued threats to their safety by regimes seeking to force them into silence. Transnational repression compounds these threats, quashing free expression across borders via the long arm of authoritarianism. We welcome this effort to codify transnational repression and hold its perpetrators accountable,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs.

"It is vital that the freedom to report freely, safely and without fear of reprisal be defended at every turn by the United States. Transnational repression threatens not only journalists and their families but also creates a climate of censorship and self-censorship that undermines democracy, good governance and human rights. Attacks such as the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi should serve to inspire actions to defend those whose reporting and truth-telling is targeted by the long, nefarious arm of violent repression," said Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, advocacy and communications director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Transnational repression violates the fundamental rights to free speech and privacy granted to all individuals in the United States – including foreign citizens, U.S. residents, and naturalized and U.S.-born citizens. According to the FBI, the most common targets of transnational repression are political and human rights activists, dissidents, journalists, political opponents, and members of religious or ethnic minority groups. Methods of transnational repression may include physical and digital stalking, harassment, computer hacking, criminal threats, assaults, attempted kidnappings, coerced repatriation, and detaining family members in the home country. Groups like Freedom House have acknowledged a need for new authorities to more effectively address the threat of transnational repression.

While transnational repression activities have been documented for more than a decade, the brutal 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate is often cited as the event that brought popular awareness to the issue. According to Freedom House, 38 governments have committed physical incidents of transnational repression in 91 countries around the world since 2014. Their data shows the most prolific perpetrators of these acts are the governments of China, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, and Tajikistan, though more and more governments are using these tactics.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), André Carson (D-Ind.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and James P. McGovern (D-Mass.).

Click HERE to read the full text of Schiff’s legislation.