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Georgians protest ‘foreign agents’ draft law on media, nonprofits

Proposed law would require media outlets, NGOs that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign sources, to register as “agents of foreign influence.”

Authorities have used tear gas and water cannons outside Georgia’s parliament building against protesters protesting a bill that some see as stifling press freedom.

The law, which was initially approved, requires media outlets and NGOs that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign sources to register as “agents of foreign influence.”

Thousands of people have been gathering in the capital Tbilisi for days to protest against the proposed law, and a fight broke out among politicians at one point on Monday.

A majority of legislators in parliament passed the bill titled “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” in first reading on Tuesday.

Although Georgia’s president Salome Zourabichvili has said she will veto the bill, the authors say it is necessary for the transparency of the work of entities funded by representatives of foreign states.

Parliament can override presidential vetoes.

Protesters have opposed a bill that some see as stifling press freedom (Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters)

In a video she shot with New York’s Statue of Liberty visible in the background, Zourabichvili supported the protesters.

“I am 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,” she said.

“Georgia, which sees its future in Europe and will not give anyone the right to take this future away. This law must be abolished in any form.”

The European Union has warned Georgia that passing this law would damage its prospects of ever joining the bloc. International organizations have expressed concern over the bill, saying it goes against Georgia’s democratic development.

Critics fear the law could have the same effect as a similar bill passed in Russia, declaring all organizations or individuals receiving financial support from abroad — or under any form of “foreign influence” — as “foreign agents” .