Georgia’s parliament has voted to drop a controversial bill that would have required some media outlets and civil society groups to register as “agents of foreign influence” if they received funding from abroad.
The bill, which was proposed by a faction of lawmakers who left the ruling Georgian Dream party but remained in the parliamentary majority, sparked massive protests in the capital Tbilisi and criticism from international organizations and Georgia’s Western allies.
Opponents of the bill said it was an attempt to stifle dissent and curtail media freedom in the former Soviet republic, which has been seeking closer ties with Europe and NATO.
The bill was based on a similar law in Russia, which has been used to crack down on independent media and human rights groups. The proponents of the bill argued that it was necessary to increase transparency and counter foreign interference in Georgia’s domestic affairs.
However, on Friday, March 10th, 2023, Georgian Dream announced that it would not support the bill in its second reading, effectively killing it. The decision came after consultations with civil society representatives and international partners.
The move was welcomed by protesters who had gathered outside the parliament building for several days, as well as by journalists’ associations and human rights groups.
The US Embassy in Tbilisi praised Georgia’s parliament for “listening to its citizens” and reaffirmed its support for Georgia’s democratic development.
The European Union also expressed its satisfaction with the outcome and urged Georgia to continue its reforms to strengthen its rule of law and media pluralism.
Georgia has been aspiring to join the EU and NATO since 2008, when it fought a brief war with Russia over two breakaway regions. However, its progress has been hampered by political instability, corruption scandals and Russian pressure.