Public outcry in Tbilisi over controversial foreign agent law

"Tbilisi Outcry"

On 16th April 2024, Tbilisi witnessed a major public outcry against the proposed “foreign agent” law, backed by the ruling party, Georgian Dream. Citizens see the law as an echo of Russian law targeting the opposition and a tool to silence criticism of the Georgian Dream party.

The controversial law requires organizations receiving foreign funding and engaged in “political activities” to register as “foreign agents”, granting the government control over NGOs, civic organizations, and independent media outlets. It has sparked international human rights organizations’ criticism, pressing the Georgian government to maintain democratic norms.

Whilst the Georgian Dream supports the law as it would shed light on foreign influence, many citizens, opposition parties, and civil society organizations view it as a ploy to strengthen their power and suppress opposition.

The mass protest on 16th April 2024 serves as proof of the unrest over the proposed law and citizens’ demand for governmental accountability.

Protests escalated as the law enforcement set up barriers around the parliamentary building, leading to confrontations and detaining around 14 people, according to Georgia’s Interior Ministry.

The law requires nonprofit organizations and media outlets receiving at least 20% of funding from abroad to register as entities promoting foreign interests, attempting to delegitimize these organizations and undermining freedom of speech.

Public dissent against Tbilisi’s foreign agent law

Meanwhile, the law’s supporters see it as necessary to avoid foreign interference, despite the controversy.

The proposed legislation has sparked a fight in parliament between an opposition lawmaker and Georgia Dream Party leader, highlighting the intense nature of this issue.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze met with U.S., U.K., and EU ambassadors to discuss the law. The Georgian President has pledged to veto the law, branding it a sovietisation initiative, showing her apparent opposition.

As a potential EU member, Georgia’s proposed law has been criticized by the EU as incongruent with its values, possibly affecting its membership bid, bringing into sharp focus the upcoming presidential election, and the introduction of a new electoral process. These changes undoubtedly impact Georgia’s political landscape, escalating both domestic and foreign tensions.

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