Become an OC Media Member

Support independent journalism in the Caucasus: Join today

Become a member

Live updates | Georgian foreign agent bill goes to first committee hearings

15 April 2024
Protests outside the Georgian parliament on 15 April 2024. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Lawmakers from the ruling Georgian Dream party are continuing to go ahead with the draft foreign agent law despite domestic and international protestation.

Read more:

16 Apr 2024, 01:18

We are wrapping up our coverage for today. You can read a summary of today’s events here.

16 Apr 2024, 01:13

The protest outside parliament has ended, with only a handful of people remaining. Protests are expected to resume tomorrow.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 23:54

Thousands of protesters remain

Most protesters have left, however several thousand still remain facing off with police around the side of the building. Protest organisers said they would remain outside parliament overnight.

Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.
Some protesters have begun a sit in in front of parliament. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 22:47

Police make more detentions

Police outside parliament have detained several more protesters outside parliament.

15 Apr 2024, 22:36

Washington unwilling to detail ‘implications’ if foreign agent bill passes into law

Asked about Georgia’s deployment of special forces to suppress the foreign agent law protest in Tbilisi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that Washington remained ‘deeply concerned that this draft legislation would harm civil society organisations […] and would derail Georgia from its European path’.

Miller also expressed concern that the draft law would ‘impede independent media organisations working to provide access for Georgian citizens to high-quality information’.

‘But because this remains draft legislation, I’m gonna sort of leave it there today and not talk about any implications should it actually be passed into law’.

15 Apr 2024, 22:26

President Salome Zourabichvili posts in support of protesters

President Salome Zourabichvili has posted on X supporting the protesters. ‘Georgia will not surrender to resovietisation!’, she wrote.

15 Apr 2024, 22:18

Legal Affairs Committee approves bill

The Legal Affairs Committee has approved the foreign agent bill.

15 Apr 2024, 22:14

Protester detained

At least one person has been detained as protesters and riot police continue to stand off outside parliament.

15 Apr 2024, 21:47

Tear gas seen being loaded by riot police near parliament

Formula TV has filmed riot police distributing what appears to be tear gas canisters in the Parliament’s courtyard.

Riot police have also been seen being bussed in from Liberty Square.

Riot police being bussed in from Liberty Square. Anna Edgar/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 21:23

Police cordon blocks crowd at side of parliament

Riot police have moved in to block protesters and prevent them from surrounding the parliament building.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs called on protesters ‘not to exceed the norms established by the law on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly’.

‘Any violation of the law will be immediately prevented by the police, within the limits of the law’, they added.

15 Apr 2024, 21:17

Speaker calls on protesters to peacefully surround parliament 

Addressing the crowd, Giorgi Kadagidze, a former National Bank governor, has called on the crowd to peacefully surround parliament with their arms raised.

15 Apr 2024, 20:40

Protest outside of Parliament continues to grow

Tens of thousands are now gathered in front of the parliament in Tbilisi, with the growing crowd listening to speeches, holding European and Georgian flags, and chanting ‘No to the Russian law’ as MPs debate the foreign agent law.

Tens of thousands have gathered outside of Parliament to protest the foreign agent law two hours into the protest. Mariam Nikrudze/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 21:00

Pro-Kremlin Russian philosopher supports Georgian government

Russian far-right political philosopher Alexander Dugin appears to have welcomed Georgian Dream’s initiative to bring back the foreign agent law. 

Earlier today, a Telegram channel reported to be run by him posted that ‘Georgia is on the right path’.  

‘Georgia needs Stalin. Otherwise, the globalist scum and shame of the Georgian people will destroy this beautiful country’, the account wrote.

15 Apr 2024, 19:49

Malashkhia: don’t test our patience!

Nana Malashkhia, images of whom holding an EU Flag while being watered cannoned during last year’s protests became emblematic of the movement against the foreign agent law, has addressed the crowd outside parliament.

‘Don’t test our patience!’, she said. ‘Listen to people’s voices and retract this law — otherwise, we are going to tear it down on your head!’

Last April, President Salome Zourabichvili awarded Malashkhia the Medal of Honour. 

Nana Malashkhia was awarded the Medal of Honour by President Salome Zourabichvili after footage of her waving an EU flag while being watered cannoned in last year’s foreign agent law protests went viral (left). She gave a speech in front of Parliament during the protests against the reintroduction of the law in 2024. Image via social media and Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 19:35

Another opposition MP ejected from Legal Affairs Committee hearing

Around an hour ago, Legal Affairs Committee head Anri Okhanashvili ejected another opposition MP from the bill’s committee hearing. Roman Gotsiridze from the Eurooptimists group is at least the seventh MP to be ejected today.

15 Apr 2024, 19:34

Protest in front of parliament begins

Thousands of people have already gathered outside parliament to protest the draft foreign agent law. The central Rustaveli Avenue in front of the Parliament has been blocked.

15 Apr 2024, 19:33

Elisashvili’s house defaced

The house of opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili, who earlier today punched Georgian Dream parliamentary leader Mamuka Mdinaradze, has been defaced. Graffiti appeared on his home saying: ‘You are the enemy of the country, Aleko’ — with the Georgian word for dick inserted into his first name.

Pro-government channel PosTV posted images of the house stating that it was the work of ‘civil activists’.

Opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili’s house was defaced with graffiti reading: ‘you are the enemy of the country, Aleko’. Image via social media.

15 Apr 2024, 19:25

EU, UK, and US ambassadors meet PM 

Earlier today, the EU, UK, and US ambassadors met with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze at the Georgian Government Chancellery to discuss the draft foreign agent law.

15 Apr 2024, 17:52

Pizzeria offers free face masks to protesters

Pazza, a pizzeria located near the Parliament building in Tbilisi, has said it will give out free face masks and other items to protesters to help them neutralise the effects of tear gas and other chemical irritants. 

During last year’s protests against the foreign agent bill, police used tear gas and pepper spray extensively in an attempt to disperse protesters.

Protesters running from tear gas near parliament in March 2023. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 17:42

More opposition MPs ejected from parliament 

The chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, Anri Okhanashvili, has ejected at least three more opposition lawmakers from the committee hearing, including United National Movement chair Levan Khabeishvili and his ally, Giorgi Vashadze. He said they were being ejected for disrupting the hearing.

15 Apr 2024, 16:42

Bill ‘to go to plenary session’ later today

According to TV station Mtavari, ruling party MP Irakli Zarkua has said the draft foreign agent law will go to its first hearing in parliament later today. ‘This is the order of the Georgian people’, he reportedly said.

15 Apr 2024, 15:52

Elisashvili beaten by Georgian Dream MPs

TV station Formula reports that Elisashvili was beaten by a group of Georgian Dream MPs immediately after he punched Mdinaradze.

Footage of Elisashvili outside parliament immediately after the confrontation show him walking with a limp.

15 Apr 2024, 15:47

Social Justice Center offers legal aid to protesters

The Social Justice Center (SJC), a local rights group, has offered to provide free legal aid to any protester arrested during the demonstrations against the foreign agent bill.

15 Apr 2024, 15:45

Kaladze compares EU and US to Soviet secret police

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has compared the European Union and the US to the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. 

‘According to what is said [about the Soviet Union], I think the exact same thing is happening today that happened in the Soviet Union — instructions, you could not take a single step without it being agreed with Cheka’, he said, referencing the West’s opposition to the draft foreign agent law.

‘Have you seen in any developed country for a diplomat of any country to come out and interfere in what law or what decision the parliament should make? It’s just crazy’, Kaladze said.

15 Apr 2024, 15:03

Elisashvili greeted as hero by protesters

Aleko Elisashvili has been greeted with cheers and hugs by protesters outside parliament, after punching Mamuka Mdinaradze in the face.

Elisashvili defended his actions. ‘We should stick this law in their asses. What debates?! Everyone out [on the streets] and we oust these rags, together with their Russian law… They’re dragging us into Russia!’

Footage by Publika from outside parliament.

He then addressed the protest with a microphone, calling on people not to sit at home and to come out to protest.

15 Apr 2024, 14:30

Aleko Elisashvili punches Mamuka Mdinaradze in parliament

MP and leader of the opposition Citizens Party, Aleko Elisashvili, has punched Georgian Dream parliamentary leader Mamuka Mdinaradze in the face during the committee hearing. The punch led to a brawl between MPs.

Footage of the committee session was removed from parliament’s website and their YouTube session within minutes of the incidents.

15 Apr 2024, 14:22

Charter of Journalistic Ethics criticises parliament’s ban on online media 

Georgia’s Charter of Journalistic Ethics has criticised parliament’s ban on online media from attending committee hearings.

‘The Charter calls on the Parliament of Georgia to respect the right of the public to be informed about the ongoing debate in the Parliament on issues of vital importance to them’, they said in a statement. 

They also called on the speaker’s office to revoke it’s ‘discriminatory practices against online media outlets’.

15 Apr 2024, 14:10

Mamuka Mdinaradze insists that no ‘Russian law’ will be adopted in Georgia

Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, Mamuka Mdinaradze, has insisted that no ‘Russian law’ will be adopted in Georgia.

‘I will confirm with full responsibility, here, no matter how sensational it may seem to someone, no to [a/the] Russian law! I agree with you, a Russian law will not be adopted in Georgia!’, he said at the legal affairs committee.

‘No to slavery at the same time! And we will make an independent decision, which in this case may not suit anyone except Georgia, but we act in the interest of Georgia’.

Critics of the draft foreign agent law have dubbed it the ‘Russian Law’, while protesters frequently chant the word ‘slaves’ — accusing the Georgian Government of being slaves to Russia.

15 Apr 2024, 13:00

Larger protests planned for 19:00

Several activist groups have announced a larger protest against the draft foreign agent law for this evening at 19:00. 

‘Don’t stay at home, come out’, the event description reads. ‘The Russian law applies to all citizens of Georgia! The Russian law is a big wall between Georgia and Europe! Yes to Europe! No to the Russian law!’, it said.

The draft foreign agent law has been dubbed by critics the ‘Russian Law’ due to its similarity to legislation used to crush independent media and civil society in Russia.

15 Apr 2024, 12:47

Salome Zourabichvili criticises the PM’s debate challenge to Western diplomats

President Salome Zourabichvili criticised the Government’s suggestion that foreign diplomats should debate them publicly on the foreign agent bill this morning. 

‘The dabates have [already] taken place in Berlin, between the premiers!’, she said, referencing a joint press conference last week between Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, during which Scholz criticised the bill.

‘The message was clear: the law is not European, and returning it won’t contribute to [Georgia’s] European mission! What else?!’, she wrote. 

15 Apr 2024, 12:44

Small protests in Kutaisi and Telavi

Several dozen people have gathered to protest the bill in front of the Kutaisi City Hall, in the west of Georgia, RFE/RL reports. Local media reports that around a dozen people gathered in front of the Telavi City Hall, in east Georgia.

Several dozen people protesting outside the Kutaisi City Hall. Photo: Tata Kachkachishvili/RFE/RL.

15 Apr 2024, 12:36

Legal Affairs Committee chair censors opposition MPs

Legal Affairs Committee chair Anri Okhanashvili has several times cut off the microphones of opposition MPs while speaking in the hearing of the foreign agent bill. Okhanashvili turned off the microphone of For Georgia MP Beka Liluashvili after he called the bill a ‘Russian law’.

15 Apr 2024, 12:33

Online media barred from committee hearings

On Sunday, Speaker of the Parliament Shalva Papuashvili issued a statement barring online media outlets including OC Media from entering parliament to cover today’s committee hearings. 

During the committee hearing, the chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, Anri Okhanashvili, said it was ‘a lie’ that online media had been banned, adding that ‘we allowed everyone who requested to attend on behalf of media organisations. In case of misinformation, I will turn off all microphones’.

According to IPN, Public Defender Levan Ioseliani today said that every accredited media organisation should have the right ‘to be in Parliament and cover today from whatever perspective they see fit — to ask questions and get answers’.

15 Apr 2024, 12:27

Rustaveli Avenue blocked

Several hundred students have arrived and blocked half of the central Rustaveli Avenue outside parliament.

15 Apr 2024, 12:17

Independent MPs Tariel Nakaidze and Teona Akubardia draped the flag of Europe over one of the rear balconies of parliament, where protesters have gathered.

Tariel Nakaidze (left) and Teona Akubardia. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.
Tariel Nakaidze (left) and Teona Akubardia. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

15 Apr 2024, 11:41

Committee hearings begin

The Georgian parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has started discussions of the draft foreign agent law as several thousand people have gathered behind parliament to protest the law.