Georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

CAPTION CORRECTS THE SPELLING OF SURNAME TO In this photo released by the Georgian Presidential Press Service, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, speaks at a joint news conference with foreign ministers of Baltic and Nordic states during their trip to Georgia in Tbilisi, Georgia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Georgian Presidential Press Service via AP)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — A controversial media bill passed this week by Georgia's parliament is “unacceptable” and will be vetoed, President Salome Zourabichvili said Thursday, reaffirming her opposition to a measure that critics describe as a threat to free speech.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Zourabichvili harshly criticized the ruling Georgian Dream party for pushing the bill that also is widely seen setting back Georgia’s aspirations to join the European Union.

The bill, passed Tuesday, 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. The government says the bill is needed to stem what it deems to be harmful foreign actors trying to destabilize the South Caucasus nation of 3.7 million.

“It’s unacceptable because it reflects a turn of the Georgian attitudes towards the civil society, towards the media and towards the recommendations of the European Commission that are not consistent with what is our declared policy of going towards a European integration,” Zourabichvili told the AP.

She reaffirmed her intention to veto it because it “goes directly against the spirit or the letter of EU recommendations.”

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

Demonstrators gather in the Square of Heroes during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The Georgian parliament on Tuesday approved in the third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests, with critics seeing it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country's aspirations to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

Zourabichvili is increasingly at odds with the Georgian Dream party, which has a majority sufficient to override her veto. She has until May 28 — 14 days after its passage — to act.

She emphasized it’s her “duty under the constitution to make everything in my capacity possible to support the European integration and to consolidate it.”

Huge crowds of protesters have blocked streets in the capital of Tbilisi and milled angrily outside the parliament building after lawmakers approved the measure 84-30 despite strong criticism from the U.S and the EU.

“The authorities are not doing what the country expects, and the country is reacting because the country wants Europe and wants not to lose the possibility at the end of the year of seeing the opening of these accession negotiations,” Zourabichvili said.

The bill is nearly identical to one that the Georgian Dream party was pressured to withdraw last year after street protests. Renewed demonstrations have rocked Georgia for weeks, with demonstrators scuffling with police, who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

Demonstrators hold a Georgian national flag in front of an Eternal flame at the Square of Heroes during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The Georgian parliament on Tuesday approved in the third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests, with critics seeing it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country's aspirations to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

The opposition has denounced the bill as “the Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to crack down on independent news media, nonprofits and activists critical of the Kremlin.

European Council President Charles Michel said Tuesday that if Georgians “want to join the EU, they have to respect the fundamental principles of the rule of law and the democratic principles.”

Zourabichvili emphasized that after Georgia received the status of a candidate last fall to join the EU, the government should have focused on passing the necessary laws to qualify for the launch of accession talks at the end of the year.

“The parliament should be working day and night to satisfy the recommendations that we have on the table on the justice reform, on the corruption agency’s independence and things like that,” she told AP. “And instead of that, instead of doing what is expected from us, the parliament is working on a law that was rejected last year that all our partners, European partners, have said that it’s not consistent with the European values and the European objectives.”

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

A demonstrator holds up her smart phone with the torch light switched on during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" near the Parliament building in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The Georgian parliament on Tuesday approved in the third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests, with critics seeing it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country's aspirations to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by the legislation, which she said “runs counter to democratic values and would move Georgia further away from the values of the European Union. And let’s not forget also NATO.” Enacting it “will compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia,” she added.

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

Demonstrators hold up their smart phones with the torch light switched on as they gather in the Square of Heroes during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The Georgian parliament on Tuesday approved in the third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests, with critics seeing it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country's aspirations to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Affairs James O’Brien met Tuesday with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and told journalists “if the law goes forward out of conformity with EU norms, and there’s undermining of democracy here and there’s violence against peaceful protesters, then we will see restrictions coming from the United States.”

georgia's leader says a divisive media bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable and she'll veto it

A woman holds a Georgian national and an EU flags in front of riot police blocking a street to prevent demonstrators during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" near the Parliament building in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The Georgian parliament on Tuesday approved in the third and final reading a divisive bill that sparked weeks of mass protests, with critics seeing it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country's aspirations to join the European Union. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

The opposition United National Movement accuses Georgian Dream of trying to drag Georgia into Russia’s sphere of influence — allegations it rejects. Georgian Dream was founded by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a former prime minister and billionaire who made his fortune in Russia.

Zourabichvili said it's hard to say whether the bill was the ruling party's initiative or if Moscow had played any role in its passage, but she emphasized that the Kremlin is unhappy with Georgia's pro-Western aspirations.

“It's clear that Moscow is not seeing with lots of appreciation this accelerated pace of Georgia towards the European Union,” she said.

OTHER NEWS

10 minutes ago

A Quartz Thermal Trap Harnessed the Sun—and Is About to Change Smelting Forever

10 minutes ago

Motorist drives past Cavan gardaí while texting in car with cancelled insurance policy

10 minutes ago

Karim Benzema wants to leave Al-Ittihad

11 minutes ago

Malaysian PM Anwar announces rationalisation of fuel subsidies

11 minutes ago

These resistance bands could enhance your training and help build strength

11 minutes ago

Chargers' Perryman: Jim Harbaugh 'reminds me of Will Ferrell'

12 minutes ago

Victims of UK's infected blood scandal to start receiving final compensation payments this year

13 minutes ago

Watch Phillies star Bryce Harper help New Jersey high schooler with promposal

14 minutes ago

Comcast Sets Price Of StreamSaver Bundle

14 minutes ago

Auto theft is causing Canadians ‘concern and trauma,’ insurance group says

17 minutes ago

Man, 64, who bonded with his 31-year-old wife over Taylor Swift insists they've never had an argument and have a great sex life despite their 34-year age gap

17 minutes ago

Are you a middle class couple who sleep apart? As trend for separate bedrooms takes off, we unpick whether it's the recipe for a perfect night's rest or a sign your marriage is doomed

17 minutes ago

Footy veteran cops monster ban after sending rival to hospital with nasty bump

17 minutes ago

Beautiful bright orange endangered baby monkey is born at San Diego Zoo - with Francois' langur's fur set to darken as it gets older

17 minutes ago

Donald Trump's glamorous aides Margo Martin and Natalie Harp wear matching pink outfits as they head to court for their boss's hush-money trial

17 minutes ago

Princess Kate hailed as 'most wonderful lady in world' for act Meghan found hard

17 minutes ago

Portugal Euro 2024 squad: Manchester United duo and 41-year-old stalwart join Cristiano Ronaldo

17 minutes ago

Nigerian teenager goes viral for crocheting her farewell matric gown

18 minutes ago

Catholic monk comes out as trans man: ‘Deal with us’

18 minutes ago

Mom, 56, and her 40-year-old son fatally gunned down at their home

18 minutes ago

Jacob Zuma will never be South African president again

18 minutes ago

Can AI Make the PC Cool Again? Microsoft Thinks So.

18 minutes ago

Oilers take big Game 7 win over Canucks

18 minutes ago

ITV This Morning Ben Shephard's six-word remark as Josie Gibson segment descends into chaos

18 minutes ago

Why Baldur's Gate 3 is a Masterclass in Writing RPG Class Archetypes

19 minutes ago

Fallout 4: What to Do with Mysterious Serum

19 minutes ago

Luke Newton improvised *that* move in the Bridgerton carriage scene

19 minutes ago

Pikitup promises to enforce no work, no pay principle amid violent casual staff protests

20 minutes ago

Have I Got News For You star lands massive new BBC radio gig after latest host quits

20 minutes ago

How Prime Video's Fallout Show Reignited A Franchise-Long Debate

20 minutes ago

Ukraine Drone Strike on Russian Airfield Hit Su-27 Fighter Jet: Report

20 minutes ago

Notre Dame Continues To Impress Talented 2026 Lineman Tyler Merrill

20 minutes ago

Consumer spending the wildcard in rate hike uncertainty

20 minutes ago

I Was a White Nationalist. Here's Why I Changed My Mind

20 minutes ago

CUNY Law School Cancels Its Student Commencement Speech

20 minutes ago

Israeli government shuts down Associated Press live shot of Gaza, seizes equipment

20 minutes ago

'Bel-Air' Season 3 Sets August Premiere Date | Photos

21 minutes ago

Turkish Airlines resumes flights to Afghanistan nearly 3 years after the Taliban captured Kabul

21 minutes ago

Jos Buttler: England ‘want to give better account of ourselves’ at T20 World Cup

21 minutes ago

Safety Institutes to form ‘international network’ to AI boost research and tests

Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch