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One reading of law distances Georgia from approval of foreign agents legislation limiting freedom of speech

Activists fear that the law will curtail freedom of speech in line with Russia’s agenda.
EU and Georgian flags during protests in Tbilisi in March 2023 against the law on foreign agents and general policy of the Georgian government. Source: RFE/RL
One reading of law distances Georgia from approval of foreign agents legislation limiting freedom of speech

The Georgian parliament controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party, has approved the second reading of the bill on the “foreign influence transparency” law that closely mimics Russian legislation. For the final approval, the third reading is required and after it will be used to limit press freedom in the country, activists and journalists believe, as per Voice of America. 

The law will make it obligatory for any media or nonprofit organization, that receives more than 20% of its funding from abroad, to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” Failure to do so would result in fines.

Thousands of Georgians are criticizing the law and are protesting against it, which they consider will undermine Georgia’s bid for Euro-Atlantic integration. Several journalists have been injured during the rally as police cracked down on demonstrators. 

For example, investigative journalist Nino Zuriashvilli, who informed Voice of America that more than 250 journalistic investigations were made possible by foreign funding, mainly from the US via the National Endowment for Democracy and the US Embassy, as well as European and Open Society Foundations.

Zuriashvilli emphasized that foreign funding enabled her to serve the interests of the Georgian people, rather than those of foreign governments or Georgian politicians.

International press freedom and human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International, and Freedom House, also believe that the law aims to limit press freedom and freedom of expression.

“The countries where these type of laws are long enacted are Russia and Belarus,” said the European Federation of Journalists’ Ricardo Gutierrez.

Recent polls conducted in Georgia have shown that most Georgians support the country joining the EU and believe its future lies with the West. Russia currently occupies up to 20% of the country’s sovereign territory.

Earlier, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili called on Georgians to choose between Europe and Russia, commenting on the controversial “foreign agents” law, according to Espreso TV.

The official said the ruling party is trying to bring Georgia closer to Russia, and it is something that Georgians do not want.

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