AFP Demonstrators in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:24
For the second day in a row, thousands of protesters have gathered in front of the parliament building in Georgia’s capital. The opposition has called for another night of protest against the controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill.
Opponents see the government’s plan as a clear step in an authoritarian direction. According to European Commission President Charles Michel, the bill is “incompatible with the EU path that the majority of Georgians want”.
But the government of the Eastern European country contradicts that. Yesterday Prime Minister Garibashvili said the law meets European and international standards. The first part of the law was then passed by a large majority in parliament.
Dozens of arrests
The first day of protest against the bill ended in confrontations between the police and demonstrators. At the parliament building, officers deployed tear gas and water cannons, rioters threw stones and firebombs. According to the authorities, 66 people have been arrested because of the disturbances. About 50 officers were injured.
Today’s protest in Tbilisi began with a march in honor of International Women’s Day, a public holiday in Georgia. Participants carry EU flags and protest placards against the controversial bill. The European, Ukrainian and Georgian national anthems are also played through loudspeakers. “No to Russian law!” Reuters news agency quotes protesters as chanting.
Register foreign influence
If the law passes parliament, all organizations will have to register as a ‘foreign agent’ if they are more than 20 percent funded from abroad. These organizations can also be subject to restrictions and risk a fine or imprisonment if they violate the rules.
Critics say the law is similar to the “foreign agents” law that Russia introduced in 2012. The Kremlin uses this law to tackle critical media or organizations such as Amnesty and Greenpeace, for example.
But according to government party Georgian Dreams, that claim is incorrect. According to the party, the bill is modeled on US legislation from the 1930s. The law is aimed at people who do not act in the interest of the country, says party chairman Kobakhidze. According to him, the demonstrators are being unjustly incited by the opposition.
EC President Michel tweets that he is concerned about developments in Georgia. “The right to peaceful protest is at the heart of any democracy.”
Georgia applied for EU membership in March last year, just after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But Brussels ruled in June that it is still too early for that. The country must first meet a number of conditions before it can be granted candidate member status.