Georgia drops ‘foreign agents’ bill after violent protests
Tbilisi, Mar 9 (EFE).- Georgia’s ruling party announced Thursday that it will drop its “foreign agents” bill that provoked large, violent protests in the capital, Tbilisi.
The draft law required individuals, civil society organizations and media outlets to register as “agents of foreign influence” if they received at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad, sparking criticism that it was inspired by a similar Russian law used to stifle dissent.
“We have decided to unconditionally withdraw the bill we supported without any reservations,” the Georgian Dream party said in a statement carried by the country’s public broadcaster.
The announcement claimed that the “false label of ‘Russian law’” had been attached to the bill, and “its adoption in the first reading was presented as a departure from the European course.”
“We should be most careful about peace, tranquility and economic development in our country, as well as Georgia’s progress on the path of European integration,” it said. “Therefore, it is necessary to spend the energy of each of our fellow citizens not on confrontation, but on the development of the country in the right direction.”
It added that the country will continue “moving towards Europe” and announced that it would start a campaign to “let the general public know the truth” of the draft law.
In March last year, Georgia applied for candidate status of the European Union and has also sought to join NATO.
The EU delegation in Georgia said in a statement that it welcomed the announcement to withdraw the draft legislation and encouraged political leaders in the country “to resume pro-EU reforms, in an inclusive & constructive way and in line with the 12 priorities for Georgia to achieve candidate status.”
According to Georgia’s interior ministry, more than 130 people were detained in the protests and clashes in Tbilisi over the past two days, and at least 60 policemen were injured. EFE