Georgia parliament speaker signs foreign influence bill into law

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A demonstrator argues with police officers during an opposition protest against the foreign influence bill at the Parliamentary building in Tbilisi, Georgia on May 28. (AP)

TBILISI, Georgia, June 3, (AP): The speaker of Georgia’s parliament said he gave the final endorsement on Monday to a divisive “foreign agents” bill that has prompted weeks of protests by critics who say it will restrict media freedom and jeopardize Georgia’s chances of joining the European Union.
Shalva Papuashvili signed the bill into law after the legislature, controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party, dismissed the veto of President Salome Zourabichvili.
The bill, which was approved by Parliament last month, requires media, nongovernmental organizations and other nonprofit groups to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.
Zourabichvili, who is increasingly at odds with the governing party, vetoed it, accusing the governing party of jeopardizing the country’s future and “hindering the path toward becoming a full member of the free and democratic world.”
The government argues that the law is needed to stem what it deems to be harmful foreign actors trying to destabilize the South Caucasus nation of 3.7 million, but many Georgian journalists and activists say that the bill’s true goal is to stigmatize them and restrict debate ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

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