Protests erupt in Georgia against 'foreign influence' law

May 12, 2024
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Georgia's capital Tbilisi on May 13 against the passing of a new 'foreign influence' law. Inset photo: @medeaivan/X

People have flooded the streets of Georgia's capital Tbilisi to protest the passing of a new foreign influence law. This follows three weeks of protest after the bill was introduced to the parliament for the second time, with minor amendments.

The law seeks to label organisations — namely NGOs that receive more than 20% of their funding from outside Georgia — as "organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power". This means they will be subject to additional monitoring, fines for non-compliance and a limited ability to function freely. This is predominantly going to affect organisations that support vulnerable and already marginalised groups in Georgia including refugees, members of the LGBTI community, and people with disabilities, among others.

Protesters were previously fired on with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons by riot police aiming to intimidate them, but they stood strong and have now been joined by thousands more.

The law is seen by critics as a conservative Russian-influenced approach to silencing, stigmatising and limiting the power of NGOs and grass-roots community organisations.

Georgia's Prime Minister says the law aims to prevent "Ukrainisation" by ensuring the country’s sovereignty. However, protesters argue that this conservative political approach hinders their ability to join the European Union — which they see as being the best path forward for Georgia — and brings the country closer to Russia.

The footage coming out of the protests and the police violence is shocking. The government's agenda to force Georgia towards Russia is also frightening, and along with the government’s anti-LGBTI approach calls into question whether Georgia could be the next Ukraine.

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