Georgia protests: contentious law reveals fight for the futureOn March 14, 2023 by Yash Pratap Singh
Thousands of Georgians demonstrated on the streets of the nation’s capital, Tbilisi, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in opposition to the first reading of a new law that opponents claim will restrict press freedom and be used to repress non-governmental and other rights organizations.
Georgia is a country located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. It is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, with a coastline on the Black Sea. The country has a diverse landscape, with rugged mountains, lush valleys, and numerous rivers.
The population of Georgia is approximately 3.7 million, with the majority of the population living in urban areas such as the capital city, Tbilisi. The official language is Georgian, which is a Kartvelian language, but Russian and English are also widely spoken.
Georgia has a rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Paleolithic era. Throughout its history, Georgia has been influenced by a variety of cultures, including Persian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman. It became a Christian country in the 4th century and has a long and proud Christian heritage.
Today, Georgia is a developing country with a growing economy, driven largely by tourism, agriculture, and energy sectors. Georgian cuisine is famous for its use of fresh ingredients and unique spices, and the country is also renowned for its wine-making traditions.
Georgia is also known for its music and dance, including the traditional polyphonic singing style, which has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Georgia is a country with a rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, making it a fascinating destination for tourists and a unique place to visit.
Some of the audience shouted “down with the Russian law”—a reference to the fact that the planned bill is modelled after legislation in Moscow—used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse the demonstrators in front of the parliament building.
Yet, this issue is only the most recent manifestation of a long debate about the future of the nation between pro-Western and pro-Russian positions. Although many Georgians sympathized with Ukraine and some even enlisted to fight against the Russian army, the political gulf between the government and the populace was already evident when the Georgian administration refused to declare a side in the conflict in Ukraine.
What does the law on “foreign agents” mean?
If implemented, the law will oblige all NGOs and media who get more than 20% of their money from abroad to be placed in a special register and submit an annual financial declaration. The penalty for not submitting such a declaration is a $9,500 (£8,000) punishment.
According to the Georgian Justice Ministry, this action will aid in identifying “agents of foreign influence” present in the nation. Proponents of the measure claim that the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the US contains similar provisions (FARA).
The law is condemned by many who oppose it as an attempt to imitate Russia’s own crackdown on free expression and an indication that Moscow’s power was expanding. Most importantly, they believe that the law will significantly hinder Georgia’s ability to join the EU.
Georgia Dream, the nation’s current ruling party, has held a majority in the legislature for more than ten years. The party is friendly with Russia even though it favours aligning with the EU and its values in theory.
Many would argue that this is a pragmatic position that has been necessitated given the nation’s recent past.
Traumas from the past After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Georgia declared its independence in 1991. Nevertheless, the following ten years saw a period of internal unrest during which the Abkhazian area announced its independence.
According to Tbilisi, Russia occupied the breakaway territory and has kept it occupied ever since.
Georgia aimed to eradicate corruption, open its economy to outside investment, and advance its membership in the EU and NATO in the 2000s and 2010s.
After a five-day war, Russian forces took control of South Ossetia 2008, a small mountainous province to the northwest of Tbilisi.
Afterwards, the area declared its own independence, which is recognized by a small number of nations, including Russia itself, Syria, and Venezuela. Russian forces continue to effectively occupy South Ossetia.
Most Georgians are afraid of escalating hostilities and, according to polls, most of them want South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s dispute to be settled peacefully.
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