Georgia faced with protests, calls for reconsideration over the adaptation of the new law on ‘foreign agents’

Photo credit: Anadolu Agency

The law on foreign agents, called ‘transparency of foreign influence law,’ was adopted in the second reading by the Georgian parliament on May 1 by a vote of 83 to 23 in favor. Controversy around the law led to a series of protests and demonstrations. A Kazinform News Agency correspondent looks deeper into the situation.

Since April 15, Georgia has been caught up in a wave of demonstrations in opposition to the new law on foreign agents. On April 30 and May 1, more than 15 thousand people took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, to protest. The police have repeatedly resorted to harsher methods to disperse protesters, which led to arrests and hospitalization.

According to the law under consideration and if adopted, non-commercial organizations and media outlets that have more than 20% of their total income financed from foreign funding (on behalf of or at the direction of foreign governments, parties, organizations, companies or individuals) are required to register as “foreign agents”. Foreign agents would have a number of restrictions that are imposed on them with the assignment of this status. For example, content produced by media outlets that have been recognized as foreign agents must be published with an appropriate warning. Violation of this law, if adopted, faces a financial fine in the amount of $3.8 to $7.6 thousand.

Already from the first days of consideration of the law in Parliament, a fight broke out between

leader of "Citizens" Aleko Elisashvili and the leader of the parliamentary majority - Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze. On April 24 in the Georgian parliament, during a debate on the bill, deputies from the Georgian Dream party spoke out in support of the bill, arguing that its rejection could harm Georgian identity and statehood.

The debate and differences of opinion about the law are largely based on the fact that Georgia is looking for the status of a country for entry into the European Union and NATO. Many opponents of the bill are confident that its adoption will negatively affect Georgia’s chances of joining the EU.

The third and final reading by the Parliament of Georgia will take place in mid-May. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who openly expresses her disagreement with the law, previously promised to veto the law, but parliament plans to circumvent this by collecting a simple qualified majority vote.

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