U.S.: Protests Against Foreign Agents Bill Should Not Become Violent

On April 23, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel reiterated the State Department’s assessment of the reintroduced Foreign Agents Bill as “deeply problematic and inconsistent with what one would think [are Georgia’s] EU aspirations.” He expressed support for the ongoing peaceful protests and condemned any steps that would turn the protests violent.

In response to a journalist’s question about the rallies against the bill, Deputy Spokesperson Patel stated: “…we certainly support what in the United States would be an expression of the people’s rights under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and demonstrate. Our call and our push, of course, continues to be that they are peaceful, and we certainly would condemn any steps that are taken to make these kinds of protests violent.”

Deputy Spokesperson Patel added: “…we continue to find this kind of legislative activity to be deeply problematic and inconsistent with what one would think of EU aspirations. You have to remember we are talking about something that cracks down on media organizations, civil society organizations, and other things.”

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 bill has already been passed in the first hearing.

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