Protests against “Russian law” continue in Georgia for third consecutive night.

Following Russia's example, the Georgian parliament wants to limit “foreign influence” on civil society. This Thursday (02/05) tens of thousands said a controversial bill to curb “foreign influence” was proceeding “with concern” in Georgia, which critics fear is aligned with the Kremlin to the detriment of the West. For the third night in a row, people took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi.

The text, which is to be formally approved by parliament, stipulates that all organizations, media and similar entities that receive at least 20% of their funding from abroad must register as “agents serving the interests of a foreign power”.

Demonstrations against the move were severely suppressed by the police for about a month. The law has already been voted through two rounds in parliament; If the third is passed, President Salome Dzurapishvili's signature would be enough for it to take effect.

Critics fear the country is following the example of neighboring Russia in cracking down on dissidents of the parliamentary government in Tbilisi, which is ideologically more aligned with Moscow. There, since 2012, a similar effort has been made to ban many NGOs.

“An environmental organization that campaigns for nature conservation and receives donations from a foreign partner can suddenly be seen as representing foreign interests, or an independent media that does not represent anyone's interests,” says Marcel Rothick, director of the office's regional office. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation's South Caucasus is affiliated with the German Social Democratic Party, the SPD.

The law jeopardizes Georgia's candidacy for the European Union

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Dürk said he was concerned about the “disproportionate use of force” against protesters and the press, and called on Georgian authorities to “fully respect and protect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”. .

According to Türk, “labeling NGOs and media that receive foreign funding as 'organizations acting in the interests of a foreign power' is a serious threat to freedom of expression and rights of association.”

He and the European Parliament have called on the country's leaders to withdraw from the law. MEPs suggested that Georgia should focus on “reforms necessary for membership” of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Gert Jan Koopman, head of the European Commission's enlargement directorate, said the law undermined Georgia's ambitions to one day join the European Union and that the country had taken a “worrying” direction. “The law (…) is unacceptable and will create serious obstacles to joining the European Union,” he told reporters in Tbilisi.

US Ambassador to Georgia Robin Dunnigan struck a similar tone, saying the Georgian government's choices “move the country away from its Euro-Atlantic future”. In the words of White House national security spokesman John Kirby, the US is “deeply concerned” about the new law.

According to the French Foreign Ministry, the text “contradicts the founding values ​​of the European Union and to which the Georgian people deeply associate themselves”.

ra (AFP, Reuters, Lusa, AP, DW)

Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster and produces independent journalism in 30 languages.

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