US reviews cooperation with Georgia on ‘foreign agents’ law

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Screenshot, Georgian protesters and riot police repeatedly clashed near the parliament building in the capital, Tbilisi.

The United States has said it is reviewing its bilateral cooperation with Georgia over its controversial “foreign agents” law that sparked weeks of mass protests in the capital, Tbilisi.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was introducing visa restrictions on people responsible for “undermining democracy in Georgia”.

No officials were named, but they are believed to be members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Critics say the “foreign agents” law is inspired by similar legislation used in neighboring Russia to target Kremlin critics, a claim denied by the ruling party.

  • Author, Jaroslav Lukiv
  • Role, bbc news

Tbilisi officials maintain that the legislation will “boost transparency” in foreign financing.

Passed last week, the law requires non-governmental organizations and independent media that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign donors to register as organizations “defending the interests of a foreign power.”

Georgia’s president vetoed the law, but the ruling party has enough parliamentarians to override her intervention by holding another vote in parliament.

In Thursday’s statement, Blinken said the Georgian Dream party “has developed and passed a ‘foreign influence’ law that would stifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression, stigmatize organizations that serve the citizens of Georgia, and prevent that independent media organizations work to provide Georgians with access to high-quality information.

“As Georgian citizens have expressed their opposition to the law, we have seen clear signs of a campaign of intimidation and the use of violence to suppress peaceful dissent.”

Blinken added that the measures “run counter to Georgia’s long-stated goal – reflected in its constitution – of Euro-Atlantic integration and strategic partnership with the United States.”

The top U.S. diplomat also said he hopes “Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the bill.”

Authorities in Tbilisi have not yet commented publicly on the US move.

But earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Washington of blackmailing Georgia.

Georgia was granted EU candidate status in December 2023, and the EU has already warned that the new law would harm Tbilisi’s ambitions to join the 27-member bloc.

Mass demonstrations against the “foreign agents” bill have gripped the Caucasus country for weeks, often turning into violent altercations between protesters and police.

video subtitles, Ros Atkins on… the protests in Georgia, Russia and the West

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