Activists Hold Rally Against Foreign Agents Bill

On April 8, Georgian activists, students, civil society organizations and media representatives held a rally in the backyard of the Parliament to protest the discussions on the Georgian Dream’s re-introduced bill on foreign agents in the Parliamentary bureau. The rally was besieged by the police who restricted the access to the Parliament for journalists representing some of the critical media.

On April 3, the parliamentary majority leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze, announced the reintroduction of the draft law on foreign agents, which was dropped last year after the massive rallies on March 7-9. According to Mdinaradze, the content of the bill remains the same, the only change is in the title: the word “agent” in it has been removed and the title has been replaced with “Organization Pursuing the Interests of a Foreign Power”. The decision has drawn sharp criticism from the civil society and opposition within the country and from Georgia’s international partners.

The journalists who were denied entry all had the necessary accreditation and/or permits to enter the building and were denied entry without any specific reason. Netgazeti journalist Nestan Tsetskhladze said: “They are afraid of the free, critical voice of journalists, that’s why they are introducing this law right now at the Bureau meeting. We wanted to protest against it, just like the last time, and we will not give them the opportunity [to pass the law], no matter how much they restrict our right to enter or protest…”.

“We were not allowed in, even though many of our colleagues have special passes. And the rest of us have the permission of MPs. They are afraid that we will remind them where this law leads,” – journalist Gela Mtivlishvili, editor of the publication Mtis Ambebi, told RFE/RL.

The NGO Mediaombudsman has called on Parliament to “stop violating the rights of journalists” and is offering free legal assistance to journalists protesting the law.

Due to the high level of police mobilization, most prominent civil society organizations in Georgia have set up a hotline for people to call in case of detention, promising free legal assistance. Members of the media who were allowed to enter the Parliament reported that guards took away their blank white papers.

Another rally has already been announced to take place on April 9 at 18:00.

During the Bureau meeting today, the draft law was officially registered and it was announced that the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee will discuss it on Friday, April 12.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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