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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Attacks on government critics continue

10 May 2024
Police arrest a protester against Georgia’s draft foreign agent law on 9 May. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Protests against Georgia’s draft foreign agent law are continuing amidst an escalating campaign of violence and harassment against opponents of the bill.

Read more:

10 May 2024, 23:41

We’re ending our coverage of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for today.

10 May 2024, 23:19

Samkhretis Karibche journalists and family members ‘threatened’ by phone 

Independent south Georgian media outlet Samkhretis Karibche reported today that anonymous callers threatened two of their journalists, Nuka Stepnadze and Temo Inasaridze. 

According to the outlet, both today and yesterday callers also contacted family members of Stepnadze and another journalist.

10 May 2024, 23:17

International media groups urge PM to withdraw the bill

Eighteen international media groups have urged prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze to withdraw the foreign agent bill. In an open letter, they said the law would provide the authorities with a ‘powerful tool to discredit, pressure, and eventually silence independent voices, thereby threatening press freedom and freedom of expression’.

The groups also criticised the Georgian authorities for preventing journalists from reporting on the draft law debates in parliament, and urged them to investigate attacks, harassment, and detentions of media workers while on the job.  

10 May 2024, 23:05

Interior Ministry publishes ‘confession’ by detainee of receiving money from opposition

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has published footage purportedly of one of the protesters detained in recent days admitting ti taking money from opposition politicians for ‘completing tasks’. The face of the person in the video is concealed. 

In the video, the person says that while he was in the vicinity of Parliament on 16 April, he overheard opposition politicians talking about how money should be given to ‘the youth’ ‘after completed tasks’. 

He named five opposition politicians, Nika Melia, Nika Gvaramia, Giorgi Vashadze, Zurab Japaridze, and Aleko Elisashvili as well as a sixth person who he said he could not recognise.

The unidentified person claims that he took ₾1,200 ($450) in exchange for breaking the windshield of a police car and uploading the footage to Instagram.

10 May 2024, 22:47

Protests in Gori, Kutaisi, and Batumi

Protests are taking place in Gori, Kutaisi, and Batumi.

Activists in Batumi claimed they had received anonymous phone calls warning them to abstain from protesting, similar to claims made by organisers of a demonstration on Wednesday in the western Georgian town of Zugdidi.

In Kutaisi today, rallygoers stopped near the Georgian Dream office and chanted ‘slaves!’. 

10 May 2024, 21:31

US Assistant Secretary of State to visit Georgia

US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Jim O’Brien, plans to visit Georgia next week, local media outlet Publika reports, citing the US Embassy.

According to RFE/RL, O’Brien will arrive on Monday and will hold meetings on Tuesday. 

10 May 2024, 21:17

Protest in Gori

On 8 May, several dozen people gathered in the central Georgian town of Gori. During the 2008 August war, Russia repeatedly bombed and then occupied Gori, memories that came to the fore during the protest.

Read Mariam Nikuradze’s dispatch from the protest: Memories of Russia’s war loom over Gori foreign agent law protest.

10 May 2024, 21:02

Head of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee expresses concern

The head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican senator Jim Risch, has expressed concern over the recent attacks on government critics. 

10 May 2024, 20:56

Papuashvili refuses meeting with European foreign relations committee heads 

Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said he refused to meet with the heads of the foreign relations committees of the parliaments of several European countries, including ‘Baltic countries, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic’.

Papuashvili cited the third and final reading of the draft foreign agent law that is expected to be heard next week as the reason for his refusal.

He added that a visit by the heads of foreign relations committees would only ‘incite the radical opposition’ to use violence, ‘radical actions’, and ‘attack the parliament [building] again’, and asked them to visit another time after the law is passed.

10 May 2024, 20:22

Dutch Embassy condemns violence against government critics

The Dutch embassy in Georgia has issued a statement condemning the attacks on government critics.

‘Intimidation, threats and physical assaults against civil society representatives, politicians and journalists are unacceptable’, they wrote. 

The Embassy called on the Georgian authorities to ‘properly investigate’ the incidents and to ensure that ‘the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected’. 

10 May 2024, 19:35

UNM member ‘chased by masked men’ a day after reported attack

Opposition politician Giorgi Mumladze from the United National Movement (UNM) has claimed that four masked men in a car chased after his vehicle near his home in the municipality of Marneuli this morning in an attempt to attack him. 

‘This is [...] a catastrophe. They came to my family for the second time... My children... I can't even leave them at home anymore’, said Mumladze, while breaking down during a live interview with TV channel Pirveli

Mumladze was reportedly beaten by masked men at the same location yesterday. 

[Read more: Government critics attacked outside their homes in Georgia]

Mumladze in an interview with TV Pirveli on Friday. Screengrab via Pirveli

10 May 2024, 19:17

Girchi member arrested, hours after pro-government media calls him perpetrator of violence 

According to the opposition Girchi — More Freedom party, police have apprehended their member, Giorgi Mosiashvili. The allegation came soon after pro-government media ‘leaked’ audio recordings where Mosiashvili purportedly planned violent protests in Georgia. 

Before the alleged arrest, Mosiashvili claimed the recordings were doctored.

Giorgi Mosiashvili. Photo via Facebook


10 May 2024, 19:07

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10 May 2024, 18:50

Business associations criticise foreign agent bill

Nine major business associations in Georgia, including the Georgian Distributors Business Association, EU-Georgia Business Council, European Business Association Georgia (EBA), and American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, have today criticised the foreign agent bill at a joint press conference in Tbilisi.

The press conference was held shortly before a number of local business leaders visited Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze in his office at 17:00. 

‘We are getting numerous calls and requests because companies are trying to find out what is happening and where we are going. If the companies suspend their investment decisions, this means going backward by four to five years’, warned Irina Sak, EBA’s vice president, according to Business Media.

Before the meeting with Kobakhidze, chair of the opposition United National Movement party, Levan Khabeishvili, claimed the business leaders had been summoned by the Prime Minister to ‘pressure’ them to support the foreign agent bill.

10 May 2024, 18:36

British Embassy: threats, violence, unlawful detention ‘have no place in a democratic society’

The British Embassy in Georgia has called on Georgian authorities to prevent and investigate the intimidation of government critics in Georgia.

‘Practices such as threatening phone calls, unlawful detention, beatings and personalised posters portraying civil society members as traitor[s] have no place in a democratic society’, the Embassy said.

10 May 2024, 18:10

Zurab Girchi Japaridze ‘fired warning shot’ during alleged second assault attempt

Zurab Girchi Japaridze, chair of the opposition Girchi — More Freedom party, has claimed there was a second attempt by masked men to attack him but he scared them off after firing in the air to ‘threaten’ his attackers. 

Japaridze also published an image of a car that he claimed the assailants used, which he said he took before the incident.

Japaridze's photograph of the alleged attackers' car. Photo: Zurab Girchi Japaridze/Facebook

10 May 2024, 17:30

Nordic-Baltic Eight: foreign agent bill ‘incompatible with European norms and values’

Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have issued a joint statement condemning Georgia's draft foreign agent law as ‘incompatible with European norms and values’. They add that the law could be used to silence media and civil society, and call Georgian Dream's claim that it is similar to the EU draft bill ‘unfounded and misleading’. 

‘The anti-Western rhetoric of Georgian authorities seriously risk undermining Georgia’s European choice. The EU candidate status was granted to Georgia on the understanding that 9 steps would be fulfilled. At this point, Georgian authorities have not made overall progress in fulfilling those steps’, the statement also reads.

10 May 2024, 16:40

Investigative journalist’s car and home defaced

Investigative media outlet Studio Monitori announced that the car of journalist and the organisation’s head Nino Zuriashvili was defaced on Friday morning, with insulting posters hung on her building and the Studio Monitori office.

Photos published alongside the report show ‘agent sold for money’ and ‘whore’ written on Zuriashvili’s car, alongside drawings of penises. 

‘The fact that authorities and law enforcement institutions do not respond to such attacks on journalists, leads us to conclude that the authorities are behind these facts’, the outlet wrote. 

Zuriashvili's car. Photo: Studio Monitori

10 May 2024, 15:56

Lelo chair suggests fund to support fired public employees

On Thursday evening, Mamuka Khazaradze, chair of the opposition Lelo group, suggested that a fund should be established to support public employees who had been or risked being unlawfully fired for speaking out against the foreign agent bill. Suggesting that the fund would be donation-based, Khazaradze promised to donate his money to such an effort, and suggested that it should ensure financial support for state employees including police officers until the October parliamentary elections.

Khazaradze speaking on TV Pirveli. Screengrab via TV Pirveli

10 May 2024, 15:50

Girchi—More Freedom chair says that masked people attempted to attack him last night

Zurab Japaridze, the leader of opposition party Girchi—More Freedom, has said that masked people were waiting for him in hiding at his house late last night, but failed to attack him.

Japaridze said that he threatened to ‘put a bullet’ in one of his would-be assailants.

On Wednesday his brother, Gia Japaridze, was attacked and physically assaulted by unknown people. Gia Japaridze connected the attack to the ruling Georgian Dream party and his personal position against the foreign agent bill.

10 May 2024, 15:30

Human Rights Watch: foreign agent bill threatens fundamental rights in Georgia

International rights group Human Rights Watch stated on Thursday that Georgian Dream’s draft foreign agent law ‘threatens fundamental rights in the country’.

They called on parliament to reject the bill on its final reading, which will take place next week, ‘ensure respect for fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression and effective investigations of all allegations of excessive use of police force’.

‘Georgian parliamentarians and government officials formally defend the bill as providing transparency, but they make no secret of its intended purpose’, said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘By labeling independent groups and media as serving foreign interests, they intend to marginalize and stifle critical voices in the country that are fundamental for any functioning democracy’.

10 May 2024, 14:39

Zourabichvili: Kobakhidze’s Chavchavadze assassination analogy is ‘a great shame’

President Salome Zourabichvili has criticised a post Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze made earlier today, in which he likened young protesters against the foreign agent law to Gigla Berbichashvili, who, at the age of 29, assassinated Georgian national hero Ilia Chavchavadze in 1907.

‘Comparing youth and Berbichashvili is a great shame for anyone. When these words belong to the Prime Minister, it shows that he has already moved to another dimension and proves his government’s alienation from its own people!’

10 May 2024, 14:28

Public Defender’s office: Ucha Abashidze reported psychological pressure and verbal abuse in detention

The Public Defender’s Office stated today that military analyst and blogger Ucha Abashidze said that he was subjected to psychological pressure and verbal abuse in detention.

They added that they visited seven other detainees, some of whom said they were ‘improperly treated’, and that they had submitted a report to the Special Investigation Service about their conditions and treatment.

10 May 2024, 14:15

TV Pirveli offices ‘ambushed’ by masked men

Opposition-aligned TV Pirveli announced that masked men waited outside their offices in two vehicles on Thursday night. The company requested that police enforcement respond to the scene and conduct an investigation.

10 May 2024, 13:48

Kobakhidze: voters with high IQ support Georgian Dream

In a lengthy Facebook post, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze today railed against ‘violent youth organisations’, claiming that they were funded and supported by opposition figures.

He provided the example of an unnamed young opposition activist he claimed to follow on Facebook, detailing how the young man had opposed the government through 2020 and 2024, and likened the young activist to Gigla Berbichashvili, who, at the age of 29, assassinated Georgian national hero Ilia Chavchavadze in 1907.

Kobakhidze also claimed that the ruling party had conducted an ‘interesting study’ last month, which found that Georgian Dream’s ‘support among voters with high intelligence was 73.8%, and among voters with average intelligence — only 45.6%’.

He pledged to ‘act not according to the demands of [the young activist] I know, but according to the dictates of 200 thousand young, middle-aged, and elderly people who came to the Georgian Dream rally on April 29’.

10 May 2024, 13:28

Washington: ‘Georgian government needs to change course’

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said yesterday that Washington ‘would like to continue to work with Georgia’.

‘There is still time to work collaboratively with Georgia, but the Georgian Government needs to change course for that to be the case’, he said.

Miller added that the US was ‘deeply troubled’ by ‘increased reports of harassment and physical assault of civil society and opposition activists and journalists’ and called on Georgian authorities to conduct a timely investigation of the incidents.

10 May 2024, 13:22

Foreign Minister condemns ambassador’s resignation

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili has condemned the decision of Georgia’s Ambassador to France, Gotcha Javakhishvili, to resign in protest against the foreign agent law. Writing on Facebook, Darchiashvili claimed that the former ambassador ‘willingly or unwittingly insulted both the state and the agency in which he served for many years, and also every worthy diplomat who faithfully serves the interests of the Georgian state’.

‘This country will definitely become a worthy and full-fledged member of the European family’, Darchiashvili wrote. ‘Unfortunately, Gotcha Javakhishvili missed the chance to participate in this case by his own decision’.

10 May 2024, 12:50

Ruling party absent from Europe Day celebrations

No members of the ruling Georgian Dream party attended an event dedicated to Europe Day, organised by the EU embassy in Georgia, on Thursday. 

Only President Salome Zourabichvili attended the event held in the Rustaveli Theatre, hosted by EU Ambassador to Georgia Paweł Herczyński.

On the same evening, the government published a post from Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, stating that EU membership was ‘a top priority’ for Georgia, and asserting that Georgia would ‘definitely become a full member of the European Union by 2030’. 

The relationship between Salome Zourabichvili and ruling Georgian Dream officials has been tense for several years, with the president becoming increasingly outspoken in her criticism of the party in recent months, frequently referring to the ruling party as ‘Georgian Nightmare’ or ‘the Russian Dream’. In 2023, the ruling party attempted to impeach Zourabichvili, after refusing to approve the president’s attendance of a series of official meetings in Europe. 

Europe Day celebrations at the Rustaveli Theatre. The two empty rows at the centre were reportedly reserved for officials from the ruling party. Photo: Nino Gelashvili / RFE/RL

10 May 2024, 12:21

Norway ‘shocked’ by attacks on critics 

Norway’s Foreign Ministry has said it was ‘shocked by brutal attacks on Georgian civic and political activists’.

In a post on X before the latest two attacks were made public, the ministry said that Norway ‘stands by Georgians protecting their democracy’.

10 May 2024, 12:20

Mediachecker: three anchors announce resignation from pro-government TV Imedi

Georgian watchdog Mediachecker has reported that at least three Imedi hosts — Zurab Balanchivadze, Natia Orvelashvili, and Ekaterine Amirejibi — have left the pro-government TV.

The three journalists have yet to confirm reports of their resignations.

Mediachecker added that more anchors were also leaving Imedi.

10 May 2024, 12:13

Two more opposition figures ambushed outside their homes on Thursday

Two more opposition figures were attacked outside their homes overnight. Boris Chele Kurua from the Girchi—More Freedom party and Nodar Chachanidze from the Ahali party were both ambushed outside their homes in Tbilisi after appearing on TV Formula.

It follows attacks on at least four government critics the previous evening, amidst an escalating campaign of violence and harassment against opponents of the foreign agent bill.

At least seven government critics, including politicians, journalists, and foreign agent law protesters have been attacked this week.

10 May 2024, 12:00

Former UK Ambassador calls for sanctions

Replying to Gakharia’s post, the former British Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall, called for ‘concrete sanction’ from the EU, US, and UK. 

‘We must not let the Georgian people down, by failing to respond effectively’, she wrote. ‘Words not enough.’

10 May 2024, 11:57

Gakharia: ‘threatening calls could not happen without Interior Minister’

Former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia has suggested that the threatening phone calls received by opponents of the foreign agent bill could not happen without technical support from the Interior Ministry. Gakharia served as Interior Minister from 2017–2019.

10 May 2024, 10:00

Military blogger Ucha Abashidze arrested

Last night, Ucha Abashidze, a popular military blogger who has been an outspoken critic of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law, was arrested following a raid on his home.

In a statement following the raid, the Interior Ministry accused Abashidze of hacking government websites, a move claimed by the hacktivist collective Anonymous. They also displayed images of weapons and ammunition allegedly found in Abashidze’s home, which included plastic pellets for airsoft guns. Both Abashidze’s brother and lawyer said that most of the weapons displayed were airsoft weapons, as well as several legally registered firearms.

Abashidze has been charged with both the hacking and the illegal purchase or storage of weapons.

As police remained inside for several hours while Abashidze was allegedly denied access to his lawyer, protesters gathered outside.

After Abashidze was taken away by police, officers made several arrests on the nearby Chavchavadze Avenue.

10 May 2024, 10:00

Welcome to our live updates on Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for Friday, 10 May 2024.