Georgians protest 'Russian law' restricting 'foreign influence' in media as Parliament approves final vote

Georgia's parliament on Monday gave the green light to a final vote on a bill that critics see as a threat to media freedom and the country's aspirations to join the European Union, a day after police dispersed the latest demonstrations against this text.

The bill would require media outlets, nongovernmental organizations and other nonprofits to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

The opposition denounces the bill as “Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to crack down on independent news media, nonprofits and activists critical of the Kremlin.


The bill is almost identical to one that the ruling Georgian Dream party was pressured to withdraw last year after street protests. New protests have rocked Georgia for weeks, with demonstrators clashing with police, who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

The government says the bill is needed to stem what it sees as harmful foreign influence on the country's politics and to prevent unspecified foreign actors from trying to destabilize it.

Protesters wave Georgian national flags

Protesters waving Georgian national flags gather in front of the Parliament building during an opposition demonstration against a proposal known as “Russian law” in central Tbilisi, Georgia, early May 13, 2024 . (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

Huge crowds marched on Europe Square in the capital, Tbilisi, on Saturday, with demonstrators wrapped in Georgian and European Union flags and chanting “Georgia!” Protesters gathered outside Parliament on Sunday for a nighttime rally and attempted to block entrances to the building, where a committee of lawmakers was scheduled to discuss the bill again on Monday.

Police sought to disperse the demonstration, and by Monday morning only hundreds of people remained near Parliament. The Georgian Interior Ministry said 20 people were arrested in the morning, including three foreign citizens, two Americans and a Russian.

It took less than a minute for lawmakers to give the green light to the bill's third and final reading Tuesday.


Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, increasingly at odds with the ruling party, has promised to veto the law, but Georgian Dream has a sufficient majority to override a presidential veto.

Parliament approved a second reading of the bill earlier this month, after protests that attracted tens of thousands of people.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Parliament's decision a “very worrying development” and warned that “the final adoption of this legislation would have a negative impact on Georgia's progress on way of the EU”.


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