The Georgian Foreign Minister has awarded the Austrian businessman with the title of “Foreign Friend of Georgia”
Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze awarded Leopold Bausbeck, an Austrian businessman with the title of “Foreign Friend of Georgia”, for his contribution to the promotion of Georgian culture in Austria, as well as to the deepening of people-to-people contacts and, on behalf of the Georgian Prime Minister, invited him to Georgia.
Leopold Bausbeck is the owner of ABV Group and Marcopolo which was based in Georgia in 1983 has since then played an important role in promoting Georgian culture and tourism. Leopold Bausbeck is credited to have built Marcopolo Hotel in Gudauri and Metechi Palace in Tbilisi. He financially supported many Georgian artists’ exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events in Austria. He also contributed to educational expenses of many Georgian students in Austria.
Georgian Prime Minister Congratulates Muslim Clerics on Eid al-Adha
The strength of our country is in our diversity; for this reason, we have always cared for this diversity and we will continue to do so in the future, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated while congratulating Muslim clerics on Eid al-Adha.
As the head of the government noted, it is important that the representatives of all religions in Georgia work and care for the country's future together, and this will continue in the future as well.
"I congratulate all Muslims living in Georgia on Eid al-Adha. Unfortunately, we are unable to celebrate this holiday in the appropriate manner due to the spread of the virus but, hopefully, this will be the first and the last time this happens. The strength of our country is in our diversity. For this reason, we have always cared for this diversity and we will continue to do so in the future. Our Muslim brothers are our brothers just like all other citizens of Georgia. We are building this country together; we are working and caring for the future of this country together. Most importantly, we are doing this together, successfully, and we will continue to do so in the future. I would like to once again congratulate every Muslim on this occasion and I hope that just as we have worked hard together so far, we will achieve a victory over this virus as well. I would like to wish you success, health, and joint work for the future of this country, for the future of your community. We must care for each other, we must respect and take care of each other's faith, and we must build this country together," Giorgi Gakharia stated.
As Mufti of All Georgia Adam Shantadze noted during the meeting, which was held at the Administration of the Government, all Muslim citizens of Georgia are imbued with a patriotic spirit and are trying to make their contribution to the democratic development of the country, as well as to the creation of a strong, unified state.
"We are glad that hospitality has become a tradition under your leadership. This pleases us and gives us more motivation. We too will spare no effort to contribute to the strengthening and development of our country. We are a country of great traditions, history, and culture. For centuries, people belonging to different faiths and ethnicities have lived hand in hand, harmoniously, as brothers in this country and everyone made their own contribution to the development of this country. This is still the case today. Every Muslim citizen of this country is imbued with a patriotic spirit and we are trying to lay our share of bricks for the democratic development of this country, as well as for the creation of a strong, unified state," Adam Shantadze stated.
Press Service of the Government Administration
New foreign political success of Turkmenistan
Final Joint Declaration of International Forum dedicated to financing of realization of the Sustainable Development Goals held by initiative of Turkmenistan and under the UN sponsorship on May 28, 2020 was adopted as a document of the 74th session of the United Nation General Assembly. This document was published in six official languages of the UN and distributed among country members of the United Nations.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was informed on this during the session of the Government on June 26 by vice-premier, Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov.
The Head of the Foreign Ministry congratulated the Head of the State on this foreign political victory, which has become another evidence of the input of Turkmenistan to provision of global peace, prosperity and progress by the world community.
In this regard, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that we see this event as an evidence of growing authority of the country in the world arena as well as another confirmation of high efficiency of foreign course of Turkmenistan, which is based on the principles of permanent neutrality.
Adoption of this document in the year of the 25th anniversary of neutrality of the country, which has been recognized two times by the United Nations and set in its main multilateral documents, is very important. Speaking of this, the President highlighted high level of strategic partnership between Turkmenistan and the UN.
Having congratulated Turkmen people and all participants of the session on this important foreign political event, Turkmen leader confirmed the commitment of our country to the course on further strengthening and expansion of comprehensive cooperation with the UN.
The state news agency of Turkmenistan
Defence Minister Awarded SNGP Core Team Leader
The Minister of Defence of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili held a farewell meeting with the SNGP Core Team Leader Captain Navy Stephan Annighoefer. Irakli Garibashvili thanked the NATO Core Team Leader for his contribution to strengthening NATO-Georgia cooperation in the field of defence and unwavering support for Georgia’s NATO integrations aspirations. Defence Minister awarded Captain Navy Stephan Annighoefer with the medal named after Kakutsa Cholokashvili.
Irakli Garibashvili underlined the importance of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP) and talked about the role of international experts in its implementation process, especially expressing appreciation towards Germany as one of the very first partner nations, which has been involved in practical execution of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP).
Captain Navy Stephan Annighoefer has been working in Georgia as a NATO Core Team leader for the past three years, since 2017.
Mistrust, chaos and panic: how disinformation affects people and what can be done about it
“Americans can create biological weapons”, “Georgia deliberately infects mosquitoes and sends them to Russia”, “Data on mass deaths in Georgian laboratory published”.
These are not lines from an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, but examples of Russian media reports about the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, located on the outskirts of Tbilisi. The laboratory is a partnership project between Georgia and the United States. But the centre’s activities for some reason worry Russia, which is spreading disinformation and propaganda about the laboratory.
“In September 2018, the whole world was talking about Russia’s use of the Novichok nerve agent in the UK. At the same time, Russia began to talk about the Lugar laboratory as a place where the United States allegedly produced biological weapons for use against the Russian Federation,” says Sopo Gelava, a researcher at the Georgian Media Development Fund.
If you type “Lugar Lab” into Google or YouTube search engines, you will see that most of the frightening news about it is produced by Russian media. To counter these myths, the Lugar laboratory opened its doors and showed what was going on inside.
“More Russian journalists visited the laboratory than Georgian ones,” says Paata Imnadze, Scientific Director at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia.
But even regular tours of the laboratory did little to change the Russian media narrative. For example, the Russian news agency Sputnik described the “open day” at the laboratory in a dismissive and suspicious way.
Of course, not a single one of the “sensational” statements by Russian media about the Lugar laboratory was true. All of them were disproved by health experts. But these statements achieved the desired effect – 20% of Georgians believe that the laboratory contributes to the spread of epidemics. This is how disinformation works in the post-truth era.
Disinformation = mistrust, chaos, panic
In 2017, the European Union launched the EUvsDisinfo.eu online portal to counter disinformation from Russia. It is published in three languages - English, Russian and German. The site has a disinformation database, which so far contains nearly 8,000 examples of disinformation starting from 2015.
Half of the disinformation messages were directed against six countries – all former Soviet republics – Azerbaijan (31), Armenia (80), Moldova (132), Belarus (252), Georgia (345), and Ukraine (3,193), which Russia wanted to keep in its sphere of influence.
Many of the examples of disinformation used against these countries are aimed at causing panic, undermining the domestic political situation, intimidating, or increasing military tension (in the case of Ukraine). Often the messages look simply absurd, often they are naked lies or they twist information. But their poor quality doesn’t make them less effective.
“Ukraine faced the highest level of disinformation during the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the invasion of Donbass. These were hybrid propaganda tools in the media and social networks,” says Kristina Zelenyuk, political commentator for the Ukrainian portal Segodnya.
According to the Armenian media expert Samvel Martirosyan, the disinformation market is vast. It employs professionals who are constantly looking for new tools and methods of manipulating people.
“Now you can sow panic in a few hours using social media. Information spreads so fast that it’s almost impossible for people to identify disinformation,” says Samvel.
In March 2020, the European External Action Service published a special report, “COVID-19 Disinformation” with a special chapter dedicated to “pro-Kremlin disinformation”.
In February-March 2020 alone, the EUvsDisinfo database registered over 110 examples of coronavirus disinformation distributed by pro-Russian media. These examples were in line with the Kremlin’s traditional strategy of sowing mistrust and chaos, aggravating crisis situations and public concern. Moreover, misinformation directed at the Russian audience described the virus as a form of foreign aggression. It claimed that coronavirus originated from secret American or Western laboratories. Disinformation for domestic audiences focused on conspiracy theories about “global elites” which deliberately use the virus as a tool to achieve their goals.
Many fake and manipulative news based on shocking conspiracy theories gradually change the perception of information. At first, people simply don’t react to disinformation, then they react to it but don’t believe it, and then, due to the frequency and volume of such materials, they start to believe fake or misleading narratives. This is the goal that organisations and countries that manipulate information are trying to achieve.
“Disinformation is a terrible threat. It concerns not only those who are poorly educated or not well versed in politics. In fact, everybody is under attack,” says Alexander Starikevich, editor-in-chief of the Belarusian ‘Solidarity’ internet portal.
Critical thought ambassadors against fake news
The news agenda in our digital world changes so fast that people simply do not have time for deep analysis of events. That’s why fakes and manipulation are often perceived as real news. Different media, organisations dedicated to exposing fakes, as well as volunteers, are all working on deconstructing fake narratives.
“But this work should not be limited to a small group of people. The whole of society should benefit from it. We must educate it,” says Samvel Martirosyan.
Young people are effective helpers in the fight against disinformation. This is the opinion of Anina Tepnadze, director of the Georgian online media platform On.ge.
In her view, young people know more about disinformation and they are more sceptical. Therefore, they can teach their parents and neighbours how to consume information properly.
“But to engage young people, they should receive a clear message that it is really important, that this is not only ‘their problem’, but an issue for everyone. Then young people can be good ambassadors of truth,” says Tepnadze.
In the view of Alexander Starikevich, to prevent people from believing disinformation, we need to start teaching critical thinking from nursery-school age.
He points out that it is difficult to work with people who have already formed their worldview. “Their reaction is frequently ‘Why are you lecturing me? I understand everything myself.’ But there will always be a part of the audience that is open to explaining, and you need to work with them,” says Starikevich.
There are, however, more radical methods of fighting disinformation – for example, using legislation. Saadat Mammadova, head of the news department of the Azerbaijani CBC television channel, believes that it is necessary to adopt international legislation or a charter to solve the problem of fake news.
“Fake News is turning into a national security issue, a tool that can destabilise the world, and it's time to consider it in the security context,” stresses Mammadova.
Bloggers against disinformation
The growing popularity of social networks has led to the emergence of bloggers as competitors to the traditional media. These bloggers gather large audiences. Bloggers can be good helpers in countering disinformation.
Samvel Martirosyan believes that “people often trust bloggers more than traditional sources of information. Given this degree of trust, opinion leaders can jointly stop waves of disinformation and rumours.”
The popular vlogger from Moldova, Dorin Galben, believes that social networks have become a “nest” of fake news that needs to be unmasked. “Our role [as bloggers] is to reach out to as many people as possible, inform them about the phenomenon of fake news and the impact that ‘fake news’ can have on the future of the country and its citizens,” he adds.
Azerbaijani blogger Seymur Kazimov also speaks about the responsibility of opinion leaders. He believes bloggers should deconstruct fakes and disinformation, and counter them publicly.
“Bloggers need to publicly highlight examples of fake publications of friends or acquaintances, or people they follow. Specific examples always work better than theory,” says Anton Motolko, who is a blogger and civic activist from Belarus. “The first and most important thing is not to become a source of fake distribution ourselves. There is a golden rule here: if you suspect it is a fake, don’t publish it,” he adds.
Georgian TV presenter and blogger Zura Balanchivadze advises to look carefully at the headlines. This frequently helps determine if a particular piece is a lie. “Fake news often has sensationalist headlines or features strong exaggeration. Also, analyse those sites where you see dubious information – ask what type of content these resources usually publish,” adds the blogger.
“Blatant lies are easy to spot. But half-truths or manipulation of facts are harder to discern. Consult with experts in different fields. Learn to distinguish facts from subjective opinions. Do not take everything at face value. Always doubt, think and ask questions,” advises Roman Vintoniv, TV presenter and vlogger from Ukraine.
How to spot fake news
We asked journalists and bloggers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine to share advice on how not to become a victim of disinformation. From their answers we have compiled a list of rules that will help us not to fall victim to manipulation.
ü Always check several sources of information. These can be the media, social networks, or experts. But several sources are a must.
ü You should not rely on information from little-known websites. Look for the same information on trusted, serious and professional news websites.
ü Fake news often comes either from newly-created social media accounts which are thin on content, or from accounts that are imitating well-known news media but on closer inspection are fake.
ü If you are unsure of the information, do not spread it. This will help you avoid becoming a polluter of information flow.
ü Trust yourself, tune in to your common sense. It’s difficult to manipulate a thinking person.
Author: Viktor Kischak
Information regarding restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals to the territory of Georgia
As part of coronavirus (COVID-19) preventive measures, the Government of Georgia made a decision to impose restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals. The restrictions will become effective from 18 March 2020, 00:00 and will remain in force for two weeks.
The restrictions will apply to any foreign national except:
- Representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited to Georgia and their family members;
- Mixed families where one of the spouses or their under-age child is a citizen of Georgia;
- Persons arriving in Georgia as part of humanitarian mission – if trip of such mission (doctors, volunteers) to Georgia becomes a necessity;
- Individuals who have been granted the status of stateless person by respective authorities of Georgia.
- Individuals holding status-neutral travel documents;
- Individuals having a refugee status in Georgia;
- The issue of official delegations will be decided on a case-to-case basis.