Protesters have battled with police in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, after parliament adopted a contentious draft bill that opponents claim limits press freedom and suppresses civil society.
Crowds gathered outside the parliament building were dispersed by riot police using water cannons and pepper spray.
When others hoisted the EU and Georgian flags, some demonstrators were spotted coughing and collapsing to the ground.
According to the authorities, several police officers were hurt, and police equipment was harmed.
Foreign agents law
The measure, which would require non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and independent media that receive more than 20% of their money from overseas to disclose themselves as foreign agents, has received considerable international condemnation.
The bill is “incompatible with EU values and standards,” according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is reviewing Georgia’s application for candidate status.
In 2012, Russia established its version of a “foreign agents” law, which it has since expanded to target and repress Western-funded media and Organizations.
“We all know that it’s Russian law. We want to be pro-Western, not a member of the former Soviet Union, and we want to be a part of the European Union.” told Reuters one of the protesters.
The planned laws have also drawn criticism from the United States and the European Union.
According to Josep Borrell, head of foreign policy for the European Union, the draft bill is a “regrettable development” for the nation. It might negatively impact its relations with the EU.
The law, which would make it mandatory for organizations receiving more than 20% of their money from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face stiff fines, was decried by thousands of protesters, some of whom were flying EU and Ukrainian flags.
Salome Zurabishvili, the President, has declared that she will veto the laws, but parliament has the power to overturn her.
The Power of the People faction presented the initial draft to parliament, composed of Georgian Dream defectors and pro-anti-Western lawmakers, in the middle of February. The opposition claims that the Georgian Dream is in charge of the Power of the People and uses it as a stalking horse in a political game.
Georgian Dream is accused by the pro-Western opposition of trying to “sit on two chairs” by supporting Georgia’s EU membership aspirations while simultaneously making every effort to avoid upsetting Russia, where the party’s founder, oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, acquired his riches.
As a result of Georgia’s absence from the sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv, which backed Georgia during its conflict with Russia in 2008, criticized Tbilisi.
Although most Georgians favor EU membership, the nation has grown even more economically dependent on Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.