Eighty-two people included on the “foreign agents” list compiled by Russia’s Justice Ministry have appealed to Georgia’s Parliament asking its members not to approve a similar law in the country, human rights defender Pavel Chikov reports.
Among the signers are publicist Viktor Shenderovich, lawyer and politician Lyubov Sobol, political scientist Ekaterina Shulman, editor-in-chief of Mediazona Sergey Smirnov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe Kirill Martynov, gallerist Marat Gelman, movie critic Anton Dolin, and others.
“Being added to the list of foreign agents in Russia means civic death. Discreditation campaigns, threats of fines and criminal persecution make it basically impossible to continue doing any significant public work in today’s Russia,” their statement reads.
On 7 March, Georgia’s Parliament approved in the first reading one of the two bills on “foreign agents”. It was supported by the ruling party Georgian Dream. A protest rally erupted in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi on the same day. According to different estimates, 5,000-10,000 people took to the streets to protest the bill.
The police used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters.
Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili came out in support of the protesters, recording a message from New York, while the EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell said that the law on “foreign agents” contradicts Georgia’s goal of entering the European Union.
Earlier today, following the continuous protests against the bill, it was withdrawn from the parliament. However, Chikov notes that the Georgian Parliament’s regulations stipulate that a bill cannot be withdrawn if it were approved in the first reading. “[The bill] can be not brought forward for the second reading or, if it has already been brought forward, it can be turned down by a majority vote. The concern is that the bill’s initiators will pause [the process], wait for the public outrage to calm down, and then push it through the parliament anyway,” Chikov warns.