Georgia drops controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill after two days of violent protests | world news

Georgia’s ruling party has said it will drop a controversial “foreign agents” bill after two days of violent protests.

The ruling party, named Georgian Dream, said in a statement that it would “unconditionally withdraw the bill which we wholeheartedly support”.

He spoke of the need to reduce “confrontation” in society but denounced the “lies” made about the bill by the “radical opposition”.

The bill would have required Georgian media and non-governmental organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face fines.

Critics said the bill represented an authoritarian shift to the right and compared it to a 2012 Russian law that has been used to suppress dissent.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili said she would veto the bill if it crossed her desk.

Police use tear gas to disperse protesters during rally against ‘foreign agents’ bill

Georgiawhich became an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, failed to gain candidate status for EU membership last year, with the bloc citing political and judicial reforms to the point dead.

Membership campaign supporters were angered by the bill, saying it would complicate Georgia’s path to membership.

Writing on Twitter after the decision to withdraw the bill, the EU Delegation to Georgia said: “We welcome [the] announcement by the ruling party to withdraw its “foreign influence” bill.

“We encourage all political leaders in Georgia to resume pro-EU reforms, inclusively and constructively.”

Protesters hold a rally against the "foreign agents" law in Tbilisi, Georgia, March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Protesters hold a rally against the ‘foreign agents’ law in Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia’s opposition has long criticized the ruling party for what it sees as excessive closeness to Moscow.

A 2012 law on foreign agents in Russia was passed after a wave of public protests against Putin’s return to the presidency. The law required organizations engaged in political activities and receiving funds from abroad to register as foreign agents.

The Georgian government said its own legislation was modeled on US foreign agent laws that have been in place since the 1930s.

The Georgian Dream party has previously said it needed to unmask critics of the Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the country’s most powerful institutions.

Protesters put out the fire during a rally against a bill on "foreign agents"which critics say represents an authoritarian turn and could harm Georgia's bid for European Union membership, in Tbilisi, Georgia March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Protesters put out fires during a rally against a ‘foreign agents’ bill, which critics say represents an authoritarian turn

Parliament initially approved the bill, but it sparked mass protests in the capital Tbilisi as tens of thousands gathered outside parliament to protest the bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Fight breaks out in Georgian parliament

Police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd as some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said 77 people had been arrested.


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