Protests and Riots in Georgia over Controversial Law on Foreign Agents
Georgia was engulfed in unrest last night after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Tbilisi to oppose a controversial law on "foreign agents" passed by parliament at first reading, Reuters reported.
Hours earlier, police clashed with demonstrators, some of whom threw bottles of incendiary liquid and stones. The crowd then gathered outside Parliament, where some people tore down the light metal barriers meant to keep people out of the building.
In a statement, the interior ministry said there were injuries on both sides after what it called an extremely violent protest, and said police would respond to violations of the law, BTA reported.
Woman holding an EU flag facing water cannon by herself. Happening now in #Tbilisi. Georgian people are out in the streets to defend the country’s European future amid ruling party’s adoption of Russian foreign agent law.— Katie Shoshiashvili (@KShoshiashvili) March 7, 2023
Georgia’s future will be European. #NoToRussianLaw pic.twitter.com/7sYqAUfmBw
The protests erupted after lawmakers gave their initial backing to the law, which critics say represents an authoritarian turn and could harm the country's bid to join the European Union.
The law, which was passed in the first reading, is similar to some Russian legislation. It will require media outlets and NGOs that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as "foreign agents".
Yesterday, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili reiterated his support for the law, saying the proposed provisions on foreign agents met "European and global standards".
In Tblisi, Georgia things really get out of hand. Protestors against the foreign agent legislation law passed by the pro-Russian government are breaking into the Georgian parliament.— NOËL ???????? ???????? (@NOELreports) March 7, 2023
Georgians do not want to be a Russian puppet state. pic.twitter.com/3DCW91PxYB
Criticism from Brussels
The European External Action Service described the adopted bill on "transparency of foreign influence" as "a very bad development for the country and its people." It is contrary to Georgia's stated goal of joining the European Union, the service said in a statement.
It adds that there is a risk of a chilling effect on civil society and media organizations, with negative consequences for many Georgians.
"The European Union calls on Georgia to adhere to its commitments to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights and recalls the people's right to peaceful protest," the document also reads.
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