Georgia's 'Russian Law' Blocked

President vetoes legislation, but ruling party could override
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2024 12:05 PM CDT
Georgia's President Blocks Protested Media Legislation
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili speaks Thursday during an interview with the AP in Tbilisi.   (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Georgia's president on Saturday vetoed the so-called "Russian law" targeting media that has sparked weeks of mass protests. The law would require media and nongovernmental organizations to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad. Critics of the bill say that it closely resembles legislation used by the Kremlin to silence opponents, the AP reports, and that it will obstruct Georgia's bid to join the EU. President Salome Zourabichvili, who is increasingly at odds with Georgia's ruling party, said on Saturday that the law contradicts Georgia's constitution and "all European standards," adding that it "must be abolished."

The ruling party, Georgian Dream, has a majority sufficient to override Zourabichvili's veto and is widely expected to do so in the coming days. The Georgian government insists that the law is intended to promote transparency and curb what it deems harmful foreign influence in the country of 3.7 million. Many Georgian journalists and campaigners fiercely dispute this characterization, saying they are already subject to audit and monitoring requirements. They say that the law's true goal is to stigmatize them and restrict debate ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

The EU offered Georgia candidate status last December while making it clear that the government needs to implement key policy recommendations for its membership bid to progress. The recommendations include keeping elections free and fair, fighting disinformation "against the EU and its values," and safeguarding the independence of public institutions such as the central bank and anti-corruption bodies. The bill is nearly identical to one that the party was pressured to withdraw last year after street protests, per the AP. Renewed demonstrations have rocked Georgia for weeks, with demonstrators scuffling with police, who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

(More Republic of Georgia stories.)

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