Mass brawl breaks out in Georgian parliament over controversial media law

Mass brawl breaks out in Georgian parliament over controversial media law
Mass brawl breaks out in Georgian parliament over controversial media law

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details Mass brawl breaks out in Georgian parliament over controversial media law in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - TBLISI — A massive brawl took place inside the Georgian Parliament on Monday, during heated discussions over a law deemed Russian-esque by critics.

The legislation under debate will compel media and non-commercial organizations to register as being under foreign influence if they receive more than 20% of their budget from abroad.

While the parliament discussed the law in the juridical committee, thousands of people demonstrated in the Georgian capital Tbilisi demanding the withdrawal of the controversial bill.

"No to the Russian law," the protesters chanted outside parliament, many waving EU and Georgian flags.

Opponents of the law denounce it as "the Russian law'" because it is similar to legislation Russia uses to stigmatize independent news media and organizations opposing the Kremlin.

Its critics also say that passing the law would obstruct Georgia’s aim of joining the European Union, which issued the country's long-desired candidate status last year.

The proposed law is similar to one that the governing Georgian Dream party was pressured to withdraw a year ago after large street protests.

But this month, the government announced it would reintroduce the legislation, renaming it a bill on the "transparency of foreign influence."

Outside parliament, 23-year old Marisha said: "We are fighting for our freedom," as she held a long stick with the Georgian flag hoisted on top.

"We want to have a bright future, and I think it's the responsibility of every person who lives in this county to come out."

The bill would require non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as an "organization serving the interests of a foreign power".

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said the proposed law was needed to ensure the financial transparency of grant recipients.

But opposition parties and independent journalists have said the bill is an attempt to crush critical voices in Georgia and sabotage the country's chances of joining the EU. They have said it mirrors similar legislation introduced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his country.

"Georgia will not surrender to re-Sovietisation!" pro-Western President Salome Zurabishvili wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The Georgian government has rejected any comparison to the Russian legislation.

"I agree that no Russian laws should be adopted in Georgia," Georgian Dream's parliamentary leader Mamuka Mdinaradze said during a parliamentary debate on Monday. Shortly after he was punched in the face by opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili while speaking at the despatch box, triggering the brawl in parliament.

Opposition politician Zurab Japaridze of the libertarian Girchi — More Freedom party — claimed that Georgian Dream was scared of losing power.

The party currently holds a majority in parliament but the country is gearing up for parliamentary elections later this year.

"We have to implement reforms in judiciary, electoral system, anti-corruption, de-oligarchization. This is what the West is asking us to do in order to join the EU and Nato," Japaridze said.

"But if [the government] implements these reforms it will lose power. So they decided to get rid of all civil society and critical media and stay in power forever, like Putin in Russia."

Opposition MP Elisashvili, with visible bruises on his forehead, which he claimed he sustained from being badly beaten up by pro-government MPs, later said outside parliament: "We will not be Russia! They are shamelessly dragging us to Russia. It won't happen."

The proposed "foreign influence" bill has been strongly condemned by both the EU and the US. Both have said it is incompatible with the country's stated aim of EU integration.

A 2023 poll found that more than 80% of Georgia's 3.7 million population supported joining the EU.

Last December, the EU granted Georgia candidate status, subject to extensive negotiations on topics including democratic norms. — Agencies

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