Georgia: Protesters and riot police face off outside Tbilisi parliament after divisive ‘foreign agents’ bill passes | World News

Protesters have smashed barriers at Georgia’s parliament after it approved a divisive “foreign agents” bill.

Riot police used tear gas and sprayed crowds with water cannon as they entered the grounds of the Georgian parliament in the capital Tbilisi.

Sky’s international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn, who is covering the protests in the city, said there was a “febrile atmosphere” and a “real sense of anger, frustration and massive disappointment” that MPs voted for the bill.

Follow latest: Riot police move in on Georgia protesters

Hundreds of law enforcement officers guarded parliament. Pic: Reuters

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Protesters break through parliament barricades

The legislation is seen by some as threatening press and civic freedoms and there are concerns it’s modelled on laws used by President Vladimir Putin in neighbouring Russia.

The proposed law would require media and non-governmental organisations and other non-profit groups to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of funding from abroad.

Demonstrations have engulfed Georgia for weeks ahead of the bill’s final reading on Tuesday.

Pic: AP
Police use a spray to block demonstrators near the Parliament building during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, on Monday, May 13, 2024. Daily protests are continuing against a proposed bill that critics say would stifle media freedom and obstruct the country's bid to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)
Police used a spray to keep back the crowds. Pic: AP

A protester wearing a Georgian and European flag faces off policemen blocking a street during a rally against the 'foreign bill'. Pic: David Mdzinarishvili/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Pic: David Mdzinarishvili/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Critics also see it as a threat to the country’s aspirations to join the European Union.

The bill is nearly identical to one that the governing Georgian Dream party was pressured to withdraw last year after street protests.

Pic: Reuters
Demonstrators gather at the fence protecting the gates of the parliament building during a rally to protest against a bill on "foreign agents" in Tbilisi, Georgia May 14, 2024. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Pic: Reuters

Pic: Reuters
Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator during a rally to protest against a bill on "foreign agents" in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 14, 2024. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Authorities were seen detaining protesters near the parliament building. Pic: Reuters

Opponents have denounced the bill as “the Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to stigmatise independent news media and organisations critical of the Kremlin.

Read more:
What is the ‘Russian law’ that has Georgians out on the streets?
Georgian opposition politician beaten by hooded thugs
‘Putin’s puppet’: Who is billionaire behind Georgia unrest?

A brawl erupted in the parliament as MPs were debating the bill on Tuesday.

Georgian Dream MP Dimitry Samkharadze was seen charging towards Levan Khabeishvili, the chairman of main opposition party United National Movement, after Mr Khabeishvili accused him of organising mobs to beat up opposition supporters.

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Fighting in Georgia’s parliament

‘Absolutely insane’

Former Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili called the bill a “joke” and a “replica” of one introduced by Vladimir Putin to “control his own society” in Russia.

He said the Georgian people would “not fall under that mistake” and that protesters were standing “firm, calm, peaceful and for freedom”.

“We will not let them prevail. We will overcome,” he told Sky News.

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Protesters angry after ‘Russian law’ passes

A protester said it was “absolutely insane that a country like Georgia has accepted this bill as it’s a complete violation for our future”.

The medical student said the bill “makes us more far away from Europe and the rest of the world”, while bringing Georgia closer to the Russian government.

Another protester outside parliament said: “Our government is a Russian government, we don’t want Russia, Russia is never the way, I’m Georgian and therefore I am European.”

One demonstrator said they had been trying to protest “peacefully” but were now “feeling anger, pain and disappointment that again in our history there is a government that goes against our wishes”.

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The president of the European Parliament has shown support for the Georgian people in a post on social media.

“Tbilisi, we hear you! We see you!” Roberta Metsola said.

Alex Scrivener, director of the Democratic Security Institute, said there was time for the law to be turned around.

He told Sky News: “The law passing isn’t the end of the vote.

“The president of Georgia who is aligned with the protesters can veto legislation and that buys us time.”

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has said she will veto it but her decision can be overridden by another vote in parliament, controlled by the ruling party and its allies.


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