Georgia Withdraws The Foreign Influence Measure After Irate Demonstrations- Georgia’s ruling party has withdrawn a controversial “foreign influence” measure after two nights of considerable protests in Tbilisi over fears it would cause a gap between the Caucasian republic and Europe.
Hours after tens of thousands of protesters rallied outside the Georgian parliament for a second night, some clashing with police, the official television made the announcement.
Protesters waved the flags of the European Union, the United States, Ukraine, and Georgia, which Georgia applied to join last year.
The controversial measure would have compelled organizations earning 20% or more of their yearly funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face huge fines, which rights experts worry will restrict civil society and harm democracy.
Opponents argued it resembled Russian regulations used to crush political opposition, and the European Union’s office in the former Soviet Republic applauded the bill’s shelvement.
The Georgian Interior Ministry arrested 66 more protesters.
“The rally participants disrupted the public order and law and order throughout the night at numerous sites and resisted the police officers,” the statement added.
142 people were arrested during Tuesday and Wednesday’s protests, according to the notice.
What was the bill?
Human Rights Watch associate director Giorgi Gogia said Georgia’s parliament contemplated two pieces of legislation.
The first draught would have forced non-governmental organizations and print, internet, and broadcast media to register as “foreign agents” if they obtained 20% or more of their yearly income from outside.
The second enlarged “agents of foreign influence” to include individuals and increased the penalties for noncompliance from fines to five years in prison.
Reuters reported that Georgian Dream party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze said Wednesday that the regulations would help weed out individuals working against the country and the influential Georgian Orthodox Church.
Georgia’s “extreme opposition” incited protestors, he said.
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But, Gogia warned the bills threatened Georgian human rights. “They threaten to marginalize and discredit critical voices in the country. He said, “This threat is real.” “Under cover of transparency, the newest statements by the Georgian authorities strongly suggest that if implemented, the bill will further stigmatize and penalize independent groups, media, and critical voices in the country.”
Human Rights Watch said the Belarusian parliament amended the law in December 2022 to allow the government to target political opponents, activists, and other critics in exile.
Balance for Georgia
Georgia, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has long balanced its citizens’ pro-European feelings and Russia’s geopolitical ambitions.
The EU warned on Tuesday that the law would be “incompatible with EU values and standards” and might have “severe ramifications” for relations with Georgia.
The law “looks very much like Russian politics,” according to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who promised to veto it. This law is pointless. “Nobody has asked for it,” Zourabichvili told CNN’s Isa Soares Wednesday.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s administration has veto authority over Zourabichvili’s measure.
After two days of violent street protests, Georgia’s ruling Dream party withdrew a bill Thursday that would require some nongovernmental groups and independent media outlets to register as “foreign agents.” https://t.co/qsA4OcW7nl
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 9, 2023
March 2022 saw Georgia’s EU application. The European Council will offer Georgia candidature status if it makes specific reforms.
The bill was “Kremlin-inspired,” according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “I want to thank everyone who has been holding Ukrainian flags in the squares and streets of Georgia these days,” Zelensky stated.