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Thousands rally in Tbilisi against 'foreign influence' bill: AFP

By AFP

May 11, 2024 10:27 PM


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Thousands of protesters marched through central Tbilisi on Saturday at a rally against a controversial "foreign influence" bill backed by the Georgian government and likened to Russian laws silencing dissent.

Massive rallies have gripped the Black Sea Caucasus country for almost a month after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced the bill.

Demonstrators converged on Tbilisi's central Europe Square on Saturday evening, an AFP journalist saw, in the latest of a series of anti-government protests against the draft legislation.

Under pouring rain, protesters chanted "Georgia!" and waved red-and-white Georgian flags and blue EU flags on the large square.

"We are protecting our European future and our freedom," said one of the protesters, Mariam Meunrgia, 39, who works for a German company, adding she fears the country is going in the direction of Russia.

"We don't need to return to the Soviet Union," said 38-year-old Georgian-language teacher Lela Tsiklauri.

The United States and the United Nations have spoken out against the legislation, with the UN human rights chief voicing concern about police violence against protesters.

Georgian police violently broke up a demonstration on April 30 using tear gas and water cannon.

If adopted, the law would require that any independent NGO and media organisation receiving more than 20 percent of its funding from abroad register as an "organisation pursuing the interests of a foreign power".

Georgian Dream has defended the bill, saying it will increase transparency over NGOs' foreign funding. It says it aims to sign the measure into law by mid-May.

Last year, mass street protests forced Georgian Dream to drop plans for similar measures.


AFP


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