Massive Protest in Georgia as Parliament Moves Forward with ‘Foreign Influence’ Bill

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Georgia’s Parliament took a step closer to passing a controversial bill that critics believe will restrict media freedom and jeopardize the country’s bid for European Union membership. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital, Tbilisi, where police used water cannon, tear gas, and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

The bill, known as the “foreign influence” bill, was approved in its second reading by a vote of 83 to 23 in Parliament. The legislation would require media and noncommercial organizations to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of funding from abroad. The ruling Georgian Dream party previously withdrew a similar proposal after widespread protests.

Despite ongoing demonstrations and arrests, the governing party plans to move forward with a third and final vote on the bill, aiming to have it signed into law by mid-May. President Salome Zourabichvili, who has criticized the bill, has threatened to veto it but could be overruled by the governing party.

The EU has expressed concerns about the bill potentially derailing Georgia’s aspirations for European integration. The country’s relationship with Russia, which has been strained since the 2008 war, adds further complexity to the situation. As tensions escalate, the outcome of the bill’s final vote in Parliament remains uncertain.

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