Protests Escalate in Georgia Over Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Thousands protest in Georgia against "foreign agents" bill, seen as threat to democracy and EU membership. Clashes with police, government defends law as promoting transparency.

Justice Nwafor
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Protests Escalate in Georgia Over Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Protests Escalate in Georgia Over Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Thousands of protesters have gathered outside the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi for a second day, rallying against a controversial foreign agents bill that would require media and non-governmental organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents." The protests turned violent on Monday evening, with clashes erupting between demonstrators and riot police, who used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

The draft legislation, which has been compared to a similar law in Russia used to stifle dissent and independent media legislation foreign influence protests, passed its first reading in parliament on Tuesday despite the ongoing protests. Critics argue that the bill undermines Georgia's democratic aspirations and could jeopardize the country's bid for European Union membership. The ruling Georgian Dream party, however, maintains that the law is necessary to promote transparency and combat "pseudo-liberal values" imposed by foreign entities.

The protests have drawn support from prominent figures, including Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who has vowed to veto the bill if it crosses her desk. However, the Georgian Dream party holds a parliamentary majority and could potentially override a presidential veto. The European Union and the United States have also expressed concern over the proposed foreign law news with the EU stating that it is incompatible with the bloc's values and could affect Georgia's chances of joining the union.

Why this matters: The ongoing protests in Georgia highlight the country's struggle to balance its pro-Western aspirations with the influence of neighboring Russia. The controversial "foreign agents" bill has become a flashpoint in this struggle, with many Georgians viewing it as a step towards authoritarianism and a threat to the country's democratic future.

While the protests continue, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that 14 people were detained protests continue foreign law on Monday night, with one police officer injured during the clashes. Despite the government's decision to withdraw the draft foreign agents bill amid protests last year following widespread protests, the reintroduction of the bill has reignited public outrage and raised concerns about the future of Georgia's democratic institutions and its relationship with the West.

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands protest in Georgia against "foreign agents" bill
  • Bill would require media, NGOs to register as "foreign agents"
  • Protests turn violent, with clashes between protesters and police
  • Bill passes first reading despite protests, EU and US concerns
  • Protests highlight Georgia's struggle between pro-West and Russian influence