The pressure of three days of mass protests in Tbilisi has finally and comprehensively defeated the Georgian government’s controversial “foreign agents” bill.
On Friday morning, Georgia’s parliament voted to officially drop the draft law that would have forced media outlets and NGOs that receive 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents”.
Lawmakers voted 35-1 against the bill at a session that lasted just four minutes and featured no discussion.
Critics argued that the bill would have stifled dissent, curtailed media freedom and ushered in Russian-style repression.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the so-called “invisible hand” of foreign powers of stirring anti-Russian sentiment in Georgia. But in the streets of Georgia’s capital on Friday, demonstrators welcomed the decision.
“I am very happy that this law did not pass because it would harm our path toward Europe,” explained student, Ani Tskipurishvili. “It would also harm [the] development of the young generation and expressing our views. I am happy that the country is on the right path and Georgians are still fighting for [a] better future.”
The vote came less than a day after Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, said it would withdraw the legislation, after protests in Tbilisi swelled to tens of thousands despite being met with tear gas and water cannons.
Despite securing the further concession from the government that all protesters arrested during this week’s rallies would be released, demonstrations continued on Thursday night and Friday morning, with those attending saying they wanted to ensure the bill is abandoned.