Georgia parliament overrides president's veto of controversial “foreign influence” law – JURIST

The ruling party Georgian Dream on Tuesday overrode a veto by President Salome Zurabishvili and enacted controversial “foreign influence” legislation affecting media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country.

Parliament voted overwhelmingly by 66 to override Zurabishvili's veto, passing the bill by 84 votes to 4. This gives the president five days to either sign the bill or leave it to the speaker of parliament to do so.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive 20 percent or more of their funding from outside Georgia to register with the government as “foreign agents.” This requirement means that entities that fail to register may be fined and required to disclose certain information to the government, potentially jeopardizing the journalistic independence and integrity of the country’s media outlets.

Georgia has seen fierce protests since the bill was re-introduced this year and passed by parliament earlier this month. The bill was originally introduced and withdrawn from discussion last year due to public outrage. Thousands gathered in the capital Tbilisi to protest against the bill and celebrate the country's Independence Day.

The US had already decided to impose visa restrictions on the Georgian leadership in anticipation of the law's passage, writing the law as a “Kremlin-style” measure designed to suppress freedom of speech and debate in the country. The ruling Georgian Dream party argued that the law was necessary to protect Georgia's democracy from the influence of foreign powers, while critics argued that the law would deny the country any chance of joining NATO.

President Zurabishvili echoed criticism from the West, describing the bill as “Russian at its core” and an “obstacle” to the country’s “European path.”

Anna Harden

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