Protests Erupt in Georgia Over Controversial Media Bill Labeled as "Russian Style" Law

Thousands protest in Georgia against a controversial "foreign agents" bill, seen as a threat to press freedom and democratic backsliding. International organizations condemn the proposed law, as the country faces a critical juncture in its European integration.

Mazhar Abbas
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Protests Erupt in Georgia Over Controversial Media Bill Labeled as "Russian Style" Law

Protests Erupt in Georgia Over Controversial Media Bill Labeled as "Russian Style" Law

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Tbilisi, Georgia to demonstrate against a controversial foreign agents bill that critics say mirrors oppressive legislation used in Russia. The proposed law would require media outlets and NGOs that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents" or face substantial fines.

Protesters gathered outside the Georgian parliament law foreign agents , waving Georgian and European Union flags while chanting slogans against the government and the proposed law. Many held signs with messages such as "No to Russian law!" and "Protect media freedom!" Clashes erupted as police used water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Opposition parties and civil society groups have strongly condemned the bill, arguing that it represents an authoritarian shift in the country and poses a serious threat to press freedom. They accuse the ruling Georgian Dream party of pushing the media legislation foreign protests to silence critical media outlets and stifle dissent ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections.

Why this matters: The protests in Georgia highlight growing concerns over declining media freedom and democratic backsliding in the country. The controversial bill is seen as a significant step away from Georgia's stated goal of European integration and a move towards more repressive governance reminiscent of Russia.

Concerned Reactions: International organizations, including the European Union and the United States, have expressed alarm over the proposed law. The EU delegation in Tbilisi stated that the bill is "incompatible with EU values and standards" and could jeopardize Georgia's path towards EU membership. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged Georgian leaders to "remain committed to the Euro-Atlantic community" and protect hard-fought democratic gains.

Political Standoff: Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has pledged to veto the bill, calling it a "useless law" that would harm the country's European aspirations. However, parliament can override the veto, and the ruling party has indicated it will press ahead with the legislation despite the widespread protests and international criticism. As one protester remarked, "We will not let our country slide back into Russia's orbit. We choose freedom and democracy, not repression and fear."

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands protest in Georgia against "foreign agents" bill mirroring Russia's law.
  • Bill would require media, NGOs with >20% foreign funding to register as "foreign agents".
  • Opposition, civil society condemn bill as threat to press freedom, democratic backsliding.
  • EU, US express alarm; Georgian president vows to veto, but parliament can override.
  • Protesters vow to prevent Georgia from sliding back into Russia's orbit, demand freedom.