Thousands of people have demonstrated in Georgia against a proposed law against "foreign agents" which they say is intended to intimidate the media and non-governmental organizations. The news agencies AFP and Reuters report.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament in Tbilisi on Tuesday, after the first reading of the controversial law was approved, as shown in pictures by the independent television station Pireli TV. Police used tear gas and water cannons against the crowd.
Pictures from the TV station "Nexta" also show how demonstrators tried to tear down fences around 11 p.m. According to the Belarusian broadcaster, whose headquarters are now in Warsaw, Poland, these are cordoning off of the Georgian parliament building in the capital, Tbilisi.
According to Pireli TV, the protests had previously been largely peaceful. At least one participant threw a Molotov cocktail at police officers. The new law stipulates that organizations that are financed more than 20 percent with funds from abroad must register as so-called foreign agents. Otherwise they face penalties.
The bill is reminiscent of a law passed in Russia in 2012. The Kremlin has used this extensively to repress media and organizations critical of the government or other critics. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili supported the demonstrators in Tbilisi. "Today you represent a free Georgia that sees its future in Europe and will not let anyone rob that future," she said during a state visit to New York.
The President called for the bill to be abandoned and announced her veto against the text. Since the ruling party "Georgian Dream" has an absolute majority in parliament, it can lift this veto.
The former Soviet Republic of Georgia is actually aiming to join the EU and NATO. Recently, however, several government measures have fueled fears that the country could turn to Russia.
The US Embassy in Georgia on Tuesday, following the passage of the first reading of the "foreign agents" law, said it was "a gloomy day for Georgian democracy". If the government in Tbilisi sticks to the plan, it will damage relations "with its strategic partners".