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Tbilisi experiences third straight night of clashes over ‘Foreign Influence’ bill

Georgia has been rocked by widespread anti-government protests since April 9, sparked by the reintroduction of a controversial bill by the ruling Georgian Dream party. The proposed legislation, which has been criticized as repressive by opponents, has sparked outrage among protesters and condemnation from international observers.

In a departure from previous demonstrations in Tbilisi, Thursday’s protests took place at two different locations: the traditional site in front of parliament and Heroes’ Square, where there is a monument honoring Georgian soldiers.

Tensions escalated when police fired tear gas and made several arrests after protesters blocked the main road to Heroes Square.

Tens of thousands protest in Georgia (Credits: AP News)

The battle cry ‘No to Russia!’ echoed through the streets as protesters converged on the square, labeling Georgia Dream lawmakers as “traitors” and demanding an end to what they see as government overreach.

Among the demonstrators, voices like Kutaisi’s Giorgi Loladze emphasized the united front against what they see as a government that is contrary to the will of the Georgian people.

Criticism of the bill reverberated beyond Georgia’s borders, with the European Union, the United Nations and the United States expressing deep concern. UN rights chief Volker Turk urged the Georgian government to withdraw the bill, expressing concern over the reported use of excessive force by police against protesters.

The proposed legislation, which passed parliament on its second reading, requires independent NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” Similar proposals were abandoned last year due to mass protests.

Georgia rocked by clashes over ‘foreign agent’ law (Credits: Yahoo News)

Georgian Dream has defended the bill as a measure to increase transparency of NGO financing. However, critics see it as a threat to civil liberties and democratic values, fearing it could stifle dissent and restrict freedom of expression.

As tensions simmer and protests persist, Georgia finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with issues of democracy, governance and the balance between security and individual rights. The outcome of this battle will shape the country’s political landscape and its relationship with the international community for years to come.