Fourteen detained as protests continue over ‘foreign agent’ law in Georgia

Georgians have protested against the ruling party’s controversial “foreign agent law”, with arrests reported Monday night. 

The draft bill was under discussion by the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday, according to OC Media.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said fourteen people were detained. 

The bill is nearly identical to a proposal the governing Georgian Dream party was pressured to withdraw a year ago after large street protests. 

On Monday, protesters sang patriotic songs and shouted “slaves” outside the parliament, suggesting the house was bending to pressure from Russia.

Many waved EU and Georgian flags, chanting “no to the Russian law”. 

Protesters are gearing up for a second day of protests outside the Parliament, according to OC Media, an independent online news platform covering news from the North and South Caucasus regions.

First hearing of foreign agent law in Parliament

MPs voted to debate the ruling party’s version of the draft foreign agent law despite the opposition providing alternatives. 

The first three hearings of the law began at 3 pm local time and will continue until the evening. 

The draft — proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party — calls for media and non-commercial organizations to register as being under foreign influence if they receive more than 20% of their funding abroad.

Opponents of the measure denounce it as “the Russian law” because of similar legislation used by Moscow to stifle independent news media and organisations opposing the Kremlin.

Mass street protests against the law in March led to the arrest of 66 people. 

External criticism

Those who oppose the measure say passing the law would obstruct Georgia’s aim of joining the European Union, which last year granted the country long-desired candidate status.

Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis posted on X that “Georgia’s destination is Europe. Do not derail that dream.”

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze had a meeting Monday with the American, British and EU ambassadors to discuss the bill, the government said.

Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili would veto the law if it is passed by parliament, her parliamentary representative Girogi Mskhiladze has previously said.

But that veto might not be long-lasting as Zourabichvili’s term ends this year. 

Under Georgia’s constitution changes, the next president will be named by an electoral college that includes all members of parliament.

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