Georgia drops foreign agents law after massive protests

Georgia’s parliament on Friday voted to drop a controversial bill that opponents — and thousands of protesters who swarmed the capital earlier this week — warned could stifle dissent and curtail media freedoms, ushering in Russian-style repression.
The law would have required media and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as “agents of foreign influence.” Its opponents argued the bill was inspired by a similar law in Russia that is used to silence critics, and could hinder Georgia’s aspirations of one day joining NATO and the European Union, AP reported.
Lawmakers voted 35-1 against the bill on Friday morning, at a session that lasted just four minutes and featured no discussion. The vote came less than a day after Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, said it would withdraw the legislation, after protests in Tbilisi swelled to tens of thousands despite being met with tear gas and water cannons.
Demonstrations continued on Thursday night and Friday morning, with those gathered saying they wanted to ensure the bill is abandoned and secure the release of more than 100 protesters arrested over the past days.
The Georgian Interior Ministry reported on Friday morning that it had freed all 133 people detained at mass rallies outside parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, it added that a probe was ongoing into “instances of violence” that allegedly took place.
Pro-European MPs who opposed the bill unfurled national and EU flags during Friday’s vote. Khatia Dekanoidze, a lawmaker from the United National Movement, called the draft legislation a “Russian law” and a “dangerous obstacle” for Georgia’s European integration.

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