In the first reading at the parliamentary session on March 7th, 76 Georgian MPs passed the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” initiated by the “People’s Power” fraction of the “Georgian Dream” party. According to the draft law, which was withdrawn by the parliament on March 10th as a result of protests, all non-commercial legal entities, including non-governmental and media organizations, that receive more than 20% of their annual income from abroad, had to register as agents of foreign influence. The adoption of the law in the first reading sparked massive protests in the capital of Georgia, leading to consecutive protest actions from March 6th to March 9th.
The protests related to the draft law were covered in a manipulative or misinformed interpretation on the propaganda platforms of the Kremlin. The Kremlin media has presented the “radical opposition” as the organizer behind the actions and accused the US of orchestrating it.
The developments in Tbilisi were discussed on March 9 in the “Big Game” program of “Channel One” of Russia. Shota Apkhaidze, the founder of the “Caucasus Center for Islamic Studies,” took part in the live broadcast, noting that despite the withdrawal of the law, the actions will continue as long as the US wants it. According to Apkhaidze, apart from the US, the Security Service of Ukraine has also been actively working in Georgia in the recent period.
Apart from Shota Apkhaidze, who is a repeated amplifier of Kremlin disinformation, Lali Moroshkina, a supporter of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party, also appeared on the Russian platform. On March 8th, СОЛОВЬЁВВLIVE’s program “Karnaukhov’s Labyrinth” was dedicated to the events developed in Tbilisi, where Moroshkina, against the background of the footage of the March 7th protest rally, said that the participants were mostly Ukrainians who wanted to organize a coup together with the members of the United National Movement (“Nationalists”).
Lali Moroshkina: “Those you see in the photo are Ukrainians and a small number of students. These are the Ukrainians who came to Georgia. Those who want to organize a coup d’état together with the Georgian UNM-supporters.”
Moroshkina approved the actions of the “Georgian Dream” and noted that they are doing everything to de-escalate the situation. According to him, the police allowed the demonstrators to hold the demonstration peacefully until they started using Molotov cocktails.
The claim that the demonstration against the Law on “Agents of Foreign Influence” was composed mostly of Ukrainians is false. Organizers of both protests held on March 7th and 8th were various Georgian organizations and student movements. In addition, statements and photos published in the media, including rally posters, make it clear that supporters of various opposition parties, representatives of civil society, university students and other citizens were present at the protests.
March 7th rally under the name “No to Russian law – come out to defend your dignity!” was announced on Facebook and had several organizers. Among the organizers were “Stubborn”, “Students Against Russian Law”, “Wave”, “Greens”, “Awaken Activism,” and “GrlzWave”.
In addition to the movements and organizations listed above, the leaders of various political parties also called upon the public to come to the rally. Statements were issued by the chairman of “United National Movement” – Levan Khabeishvili, “European Georgia“, “Droa“, and “Strategy Agmashenebeli” leader – Giorgi Vashadze.
When it comes to the protest of March 8th, at 15:00, a women’s march called “Women against total control!” was organized by various organizations working on women’s rights, calling the population to come to and join the rally against the “Law on Foreign Agents” planned for the same day in front of the Parliament of Georgia.
On March 8th, Georgian students also held a rally, after which they moved to the Parliament of Georgia to join the protests.
13 organizations and movements organized the March 8 rally. These are: “Stubborn”, “Students against the Russian law”, “Wave”, “Greens”, “Wake up activism”, “GrlzWave”, “we’talk”, “Mtkvarze”, “Femina Foundation”, “Mzesumzira”, “4D Monster Lobsters”, “ROKVA Festival” and “Left Bank”.
Footage of the protest rally against the “Agents of Foreign Influence” law held on March 7th and 8th was broadcasted live by various media outlets. The footage shows that among the speakers were representatives of the opposition, civil activists, and representatives of student movements, etc.
Photos of the protests were also distributed on social networks, showing posters supporting the protest from different regions of Georgia.
Approximately how many people attended the Protest on March 8?
After the parliamentary majority passed the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” in the first reading, the protest was reignited on March 8th.
To calculate the approximate number of citizens who came to the protest on March 8th, we used mapchecking.com, an online tool for counting the number of people gathered. Mapchecking allows us to mark a specific area on the map, and then calculate the approximate number of people gathered by indicating the density.
The footage shows that the protesters were standing not only directly in front of the Parliament, but also on the part of 9 April and Zakaria Chichinadze streets, in front of the National Palace of Students and Youth, as well as Tbilisi Classical Gymnasium. In addition, the participants of the protest occupied the territory in front of the Museum of Georgian Fine Arts, as well as on Archil Jorjadze Street, located between the museum and the Kashueti Church, and the territory directly in front of the Church.
Due to the fact that the participants of the rally stood in different sections with different densities, we divided the area into 3 main parts: 1. The area directly in front of the Parliament (in addition, part of 9 April and Zakaria Chichinadze streets, the area in front of the Museum of Georgian Fine Arts, most of the area between the Kashveti Church and the Classical Gymnasium ); 2. The remaining part of the area in front of the first gymnasium and the area in front of the National Gallery; 3. The area in front of the National Palace of Students and Youth.
To determine the density, we used the resource indicated on the Mapchecking website, which provides visual images of specific density. Summing up the number of citizens gathered in the territory divided into 3 parts, we got the approximate number of citizens who came to the rally on March 8 – 32,265:
The participants of the rally stood most densely in section 1. We estimated the density in this area by 3 people per square meter, and according to Mapchecking, 26,293 people were gathered in the area.
In the remaining area in front of the first classical gymnasium and also in a small part of Rustaveli Avenue, we determined the density of the protestors by 2 people per square meter, which made a total of 3864 people.
As for the area in front of the National Palace of Students and Youth, where the citizens were located with the lowest density. We estimated the density in this part as 1.5 people per 1 square meter. According to mapchecking, a total of 2109 people were gathered in this place.
The Parliamentary Majority Dropped the Draft Law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”.
After mass protests, on March 9th, the parliamentary majority released a joint statement, which concerned the withdrawal of the law on the “transparency of foreign influence.” After the mentioned statement, constitution experts explained that the regulations of the Parliament of Georgia do not provide for the withdrawal of the bill by the initiators after the first reading, as it is necessary to put the bill passed in the first reading to a vote at the committee and plenary session and to vote against it. At the plenary session held on March 10th, the Parliament of Georgia voted for the draft law on “transparency of foreign influence” in the second reading and rejected it.
The international human rights organization Amnesty International responded to the decision to reject the draft law on “agents” and noted that “in many instances, the use of force by police was neither proportionate nor necessary and failed to minimize harm and injury.”
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