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Police in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. The group is demonstrating in front of parliament against a controversial bill. According to them, the “foreign agents” law aims to silence government critics.
Under the proposal, all organizations must register as a “foreign agent” with the Justice Department if they receive more than 20 percent foreign funding. They can also be checked and additional restrictions imposed. Organizations risk a fine or up to five years in prison if they fail to comply with the rules.
The first hurdle has been taken
The first part of the bill passed in parliament today by an overwhelming majority. Given the overwhelming support, the entire bill is expected to be passed within a few days. For reasons that are not clear, the vote was introduced.
Protesters say the plan closely resembles a similar law introduced by Russia to suppress dissent. Human rights groups have described Georgia’s “foreign agents” law as authoritarian and inconsistent with international law. “It is clear that they are trying to curtail critical groups and the major media,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
Fought in Parliament
The opposition is fiercely opposed and emotions run high in the political debate. Supporters and opponents clashed briefly yesterday in Parliament House.
And equated the ruling Georgian Dream Party between criticizing the proposal and criticizing the Orthodox Church in Georgia. This is one of the most influential institutions in the country. Prime Minister Garibashvili also said that the law meets European and international standards. “The future of our country does not belong to foreign servants.”
President Zurabishvili said she would veto the law if it was passed. In a video message, she sided with the protesters. The independent Zurabishvili came to power with the support of the Georgian Dreams organization, but in recent years has become a staunch critic of the ruling party.
EU foreign policy chief Borrell described the bill as a “very bad development” that could seriously affect relations between the EU and Georgia.
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