Georgia’s controversial foreign agent bill passes first reading amid mass protests

  • 19 April, 13:31

Georgia’s foreign agent bill proposed by the ruling Georgia Dream country passed its first reading in a parliament’s session on Wednesday amidst mass protests.

The controversial law suggests that any individual or entity who receives over twenty percent of their funding from abroad shall be regarded as foreign agent. Proposed by the ruling party last year, the draft law was dropped due to mass protests, only to be reintroduced in early April this year. During the voting, a number of opposition MPs were ejected from parliament, while online media’s coverage of the voting was banned.

The bill has reignited mass protests in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, with protesters voicing concerns that the bill derails their country’s path to the European Union.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered behind the parliament on Wednesday in capital Tbilisi in the largest protest rally since the bill was reintroduced. Blocking the traffic on the main road in Tbilisi, the protesters chanted “No to the Russian law!” Several protesters were detained as police used pepper spray to disperse the crowds. According to the country’s interior ministry, one police officer was injured.

The foreign agent bill has yet to pass two more readings in parliament before coming into effect. The bill has to overcome the veto by President Salome Zurabishbili who has condemned the ruling party’s pushing for the bill as the move as “against the will of the population”. A day before the passing of the bill, police detained 14 demonstrators as about 10,000 people took to the streets.

The draft law threatens Georgia’s EU integration, with Brussels urging Tbilisi not to pass it. “The draft law on transparency of foreign influence is not consistent with Georgia’s EU aspiration and its accession trajectory,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday. 

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