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WorldPassage of controversial "foreign influence" bill in Georgia sets off weeks of...

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Passage of controversial “foreign influence” bill in Georgia sets off weeks of protests

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The Georgian government approved a controversial bill in its last reading on Tuesday.The bill caused weeks of large protests because people are worried it could harm democratic freedoms and Georgia’s goal of joining the European Union.

The law says that if media and nonprofit groups get more than 20% of their money from another country, they have to register as working for that country’s interests.

The government says the bill is needed to stop bad foreign influence in the country’s politics and to stop foreign actors from trying to make it unstable.

The opponents have called the bill “the Russian law” because it is similar to laws in Russia that are used to control independent news media, non-profit organizations, and activists who speak out against the government.

Big protests against the law happened in the South Caucasus country with 3.7 million people.

European Council President Charles Michel talked about Georgia at a conference on democracy in Copenhagen. He said that if Georgia wants to join the EU, they need to follow the basic rules of law and democracy.

The bill is almost the same as one that the ruling Georgian Dream party had to take back last year because of protests on the street. Protests have been happening in Georgia for weeks. People are fighting with the police, and the police are using tear gas and water guns to break up the crowds.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili is not getting along with the governing party. She said she will stop the law, but the Georgian Dream party has enough power to ignore her and make the law anyway.

On Tuesday, the lawmakers talked about a new law. Outside the parliament, a big group of people protested against the law. There were a lot of police there to keep things safe. During the weekend, many people went to the streets of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Some of them stayed in front of the parliament until Monday morning.

A fight broke out during a discussion in the parliament. Georgian Dream politician Dimitry Samkharadze moved quickly toward Levan Khabeishvili, the leader of the main opposition party United National Movement, after Khabeishvili said he was organizing groups to attack opposition followers.

In the past few days, many people who disagree with the government have been attacked and hurt. The opposition said the incidents were related to the protests.

Another lawmaker from the ruling party in Georgia, Archil Talakvadze, said in his speech on Tuesday that the opposition is using the protests for their own political gain and hoping for things to get more extreme. He also accused them of being against the country.

“Nothing and no one can stop our country from growing,” Talakvadze said.

Ana Tsitlidze, from the United National Movement, said the protests showed that Georgia is strong and united in its fight for a European future. She also said that by saying no to the Russian law, we are also saying no to the Russian government.

After talking about it, 84 out of 116 people at the meeting on Tuesday liked the law, and 30 didn’t. It will now be sent to Zourabichvili, who is the president, and she has 14 days to decide whether to say yes or no to it.

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