Georgia withdraws foreign agent Bill after days of protests

Georgia’s ruling party says it is withdrawing a draft law from the Parliament criticised as potentially stifling media freedom and civil society

Updated - March 09, 2023 04:55 pm IST

Published - March 09, 2023 01:56 pm IST - TBILISI, Georgia

A man waves a Georgian national flag in front of a burning barricade as other protesters stand behind not far from the Georgian Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, March 9, 2023.

A man waves a Georgian national flag in front of a burning barricade as other protesters stand behind not far from the Georgian Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, March 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Georgia's ruling party said on March 9 it is withdrawing a draft law from the Parliament criticised as potentially stifling media freedom and civil society, after several days of massive protests against it in the capital.

The Georgian Dream party and and its allies said they were withdrawing the proposed Law, citing “controversy in society” it triggered. The Bill would have required media and non-governmental organisations that receive over 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as “agents of foreign influence.”

The move comes after several days of mass protests in the country’s capital, Tbilisi. The demonstrations culminated on the night of March 8, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the city centre. Police brutally dispersed the rally, using water cannons and tear gas, and 133 protesters have been arrested, according to the country's Interior Ministry.

A police car burns near remnants of the barricade after clashes between demonstrators and police on a street near the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, March 9, 2023.

A police car burns near remnants of the barricade after clashes between demonstrators and police on a street near the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, March 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Lawmakers said in a statement on March 9 morning that “consultations were held between the political council of Georgian Dream, People’s Force, and Deputies of the Parliamentary majority” and they acknowledged that the Bill, which passed its first reading earlier this week, “has caused controversy in society.” For this reason it has been decided to unconditionally withdraw the bill “without any reservations”.

The statement argued, however, that the initiative was presented “in a negative light,” and “a certain part of the population” was misled.

“The Bill was labelled falsely as a ‘Russian law’ and its adoption in the first reading was presented in the eyes of a part of the public as a departure from the European course,” lawmakers said.

The proposed Law did appear similar to one enacted in Russia in 2012 that has been used to shut down or discredit organisations critical of the government. The Bill's authoris said it was needed for the transparency of the work of entities financed by representatives of foreign states, but opponents saw it as potentially obstructing Georgia’s stated intention of joining NATO and the European Union.

European Parliament members Maria Kaljurand and Sven Mikser, top figures in relations with Georgia, said the proposed Law “goes directly against the Georgian authorities’ declared ambition to receive candidate status for EU membership.”

Georgia’s President, Salome Zurabishvili, had said she would veto the Bill.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.