Georgians face off with police in angry protest against ‘Russian law’
Georgian authorities used tear gas and water cannon outside the parliament building in the capital Tuesday against protesters who oppose a proposed law some see as stifling freedom of the press and coming from Russia.
The law, which has received initial approval, would require media outlets and nongovernmental organisations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign sources to register as “agents of foreign influence.”
International organisations have voiced concern over the draft law, saying it runs against Georgia’s democratic development.
Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili condemned his country’s parliament for the introduction of the law claiming it was “dictated by Moscow”.
In a video she shot with New York’s Statue of Liberty visible in the background, Zurabishvili supported the protesters.
She said: “I am standing in New York, and behind me is the Statue of Liberty.
“This is a symbol for which Georgia has always fought, for which we have come to this day. I am with you, because today you represent free Georgia. Georgia, which sees its future in Europe and will not give anyone the right to take this future.
“This law must be abolished in any form.”
She promised to veto the law but parliament has the power to overrule her decision.
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A police statement said several law enforcement officers have been injured. Protesters have also reported injuries.
In Russia, a foreign agent law is often used to shut down organizations and news outlets that report voices critical of the government.
Georgian civil activists and opposition representatives have blocked both entrances to the parliament building, chanting: “No to Russian law!” “Russians!” “Slaves!”
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The European Union has warned Georgia that by adopting this law it would harm its prospects of ever joining the bloc.
Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of the opposition National Movement Rally, told parliament: “Everyone should understand that saving our country, saving our young generation, saving our future lies only through the European path.”
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