Georgian police officers arrested 36 individuals, including reporters, on administrative offences during a public rally against the controversial domestic draft law on transparency of foreign influence late on Thursday outside the Parliament of Georgia in Tbilisi.
Zura Vardiashvili, the Director General of Publika online media outlet and Beka Jikurashvili, a journalist of Tabula Magazine were among those arrested before being released later on Thursday.
The arrests had been made on charges of “petty hooliganism” and “disobedience to police officers”, the Georgian Interior Ministry told InterPressNews on Friday.
The protest was launched after a joint session of the foreign relations and defence committees of the Parliament on Thursday began discussions on the proposed bill that involves registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad.
Lawmakers clashed verbally and physically during the session, before Parliament security removed opposition MPs, including the newly elected United National Movement Chair Levan Khabeishvili and Strategy Agmashenebeli party leader Giorgi Vashadze, from the hearings.
Proposed by a public movement founded by former members of the ruling Georgian Dream party, the bill has been met by a backlash from the domestic opposition, civil sector and diplomatic representations in the country, who have claimed threats to democratic principles from the bill’s potential adoption.
The United Nations Office in Georgia on Sunday said approving the bill would “risk impeding the work of civil society and media and the essential contributions they make to Georgian democracy”, while Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Tuesday pledged to veto its adoption.