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
President of Turkmenistan congratulates new Prime Minister of Japan
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov addressed congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Yoshihide Suga on his election as Prime Minister of Japan.
“I am confident that under your leadership, Japan will reach new heights in political and socio-economic development, strengthen its authority in the international arena”, emphasized the Turkmen leader in his address.
Expressing satisfaction with the positive dynamics of the interstate dialogue, the President of Turkmenistan emphasized that bilateral cooperation had reached a qualitatively new level over the past years.
“Today our countries successfully interact in a wide range of areas. I am confident that due to our joint efforts, the Turkmen-Japanese relations, which are of a strategic nature, will continue to develop dynamically for the benefit of our peoples”, says the President of Turkmenistan in his address.
Taking this opportunity, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov wished Mr. Yoshihide Suga good health, happiness and success in his versatile activity in the name of the further prosperity of friendly Japan.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli: "Thank you for your perseverance, professionalism, responsibility and dedication"
To celebrate the beginning of the new academic year, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, Mikheil Chkhenkeli addressed the teachers, students, parents, professors:
"Due to the ongoing pandemic, 2020 turned out to be full of challenges for the entire world. Consequently, we have to start this school year under unusual circumstances.
Protecting the health and safety of every pupil, teacher, student, lecturer and every citizen is a major concern of our government, so in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Interagency Coordinating Council headed by the Prime Minister has decided to start the academic year in a remote mode for some cities and municipalities across the country. Starting October 1, classes will continue normally in classrooms and auditoriums nationwide.
Under these uncertain times, in the conditions of harsh pandemic during the spring semester, the Georgian education system quickly adapted to the new reality in the shortest possible time, and we, as a team, in cooperation with our foreign partners, managed to deal with the existing challenge, and set an example for many to follow. As a result, we have maintained the continuity and quality of education. Therefore, Georgian education system, has gained considerable experience in terms of hybrid teaching.
In the previous semester, TV School project was one of the most important pillars that allowed us to maximize access to education. Subsequently, starting from September 15, the project TV school will resume again. It will be yet again, an extremely important component of distance learning, and a substantial resource for all students and teachers in Georgia. In order to successfully overcome the challenge we face today, every citizen needs to show the greatest civic responsibility so that the epidemic situation does not worsen. I believe that with joint efforts we will be able to deal with this important obstacle and the learning process will return to the usual environment in no time.
I, as a Minister and an ordinary citizen of this country, would like to extend my immense gratitude to every student, teacher, lecturer, parent and every employee of educational institution for your resilience, professionalism, responsibility and dedication.
I wish you health, success and best of luck with the new academic year”- stated the Minister.
Giorgi Gakharia: Every citizen of the country should call a doctor and get PCR tested on COVID-19 as soon as feverish or suspecting other respiratory symptoms
Giorgi Gakharia, Prime Minister of Georgia instructed respective institutions to extend the coverage of COVID-19 tests in parallel with re-opening of the economy and on the background of increased epidemic risks. Head of the Government of Georgia held a working meeting today on the topic.
On the background of COVID-19 circulation and restrictions being lifted in the country, greater importance is acquired by the timely detection and treatment of possible cases. Every citizen should immediately call 112 or a family doctor and get PCR tested on COVID-19 if and when gets fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing or other respiratory symptoms.
As of June 11, 2020 the country has identified 6 new cases, out of which 4 are not traceable and thus contain an outright threat. Hence, Government of Georgia and healthcare professionals once again urge the population to strictly adhere to the pre-defined measures.
Gradual lifting of restrictions and resumption of the economy should not serve as a basis of lessening the effort or lead to an illusion that a virus has been defeated. Examples of various countries have been discussed at the working meeting, which have had repeated epidemic outbreaks. Significance of joint efforts and high degree of responsibility has been underlined in the process of tackling the global pandemic.
Prime Minister of Georgia and management officials of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) discussed the current stance at Fever Centers and inbound calls to 112, along with the resources required for the greater extension of testing practices. It was noted that as of today 18 labs in Georgia perform the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and this number will increase to 24 in July 2020. Average daily number of tests performed in the country is around 1500, which is expected to increase to 4500 in the nearest future. By autumn daily indicator of tests will reach 6000-8000. Along with possible cases, tests at present will be performed among some number of groups, which will be defined in the nearest future under the Government Resolution. In line with the instructions issued by the Head of Government of Georgia, stock of test kits will be periodically increased. NCDC is also replenishing its material-technical base.
Press Service of the Government Administration
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
Giorgi Gakharia: We Have Decided To Significantly Tighten Measures Under State of Emergency, Effectively Declaring Universal Quarantine
The government made the decision to significantly tighten measures within the framework of the state of emergency, which will take effect at 8:00 in the morning tomorrow, stated Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia at a briefing held after the conclusion of a session of the Interagency Coordination Council on the coronavirus.
Today's session took place in an extended format and was attended by the mayor of the capital, members of the Cabinet of Ministers, and senior officials from the Center for Disease Control, in addition to members of the council.
"We have decided to significantly tighten measures within the framework of the state of emergency. Effectively - and I would like to emphasize this - effectively, we are declaring universal quarantine, which will begin tomorrow, at 8:00 in the morning. This quarantine means the following:
• It is completely forbidden to travel using any type of public transport (including the subway), both within and between cities and municipalities.
• It is only permissible to travel using light vehicles (including taxis), and only if the recommendation of the Ministry of Healthcare has been taken into consideration, i.e., if there are no more than three persons in an automobile, with the essential condition that the two persons are seated in the rear seat. This is a very important recommendation and relevant state bodies will make the appropriate decisions in case of noncompliance.
• Also, it is only permissible to carry passengers for the purpose of transporting employees of facilities of strategic importance in an organized and safe manner.
• Gathering of more than three persons is forbidden, with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, where maintaining a social distance of two meters is mandatory
• Furthermore, rules governing the operation of enterprises that are permitted by the government will be set out separately; they will have separate protocols that will be agreed with the Ministry of Healthcare. We are doing this so that the economy can continue to function and to ensure that the potential that the Georgian economy possesses is not brought to a standstill, as well as, of course, to ensure that our citizens can retain their jobs as much as possible.
• Our citizens above 70 years of age will be forbidden from leaving their homes, unless they are going to their nearest grocery store, their nearest pharmacy, or their nearest medical facility.
• If our citizens above 70 years of age live alone, the Ministry of Healthcare and the Ministry of Economy, as well as local municipalities, are obligated to provide them with assistance.
• Most importantly: Effectively, a full quarantine will be declared for the duration of the state of emergency. It will be forbidden to move on foot or using any other mode of transportation in the cities and throughout the entire country between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00. Effectively - and I would like to emphasize this once again - effectively, this means that a so-called curfew is being declared throughout the entire country between the hours of 21:00 and 06:00.
• Checkpoints will be set up in the cities of Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Poti, Zugdidi, and Gori in order to control the movement of individuals, to check their health status, and to ensure the fulfillment of the tightened measures under the state of emergency, as well as to provide initial thermal screening and to control the administrative borders of these cities. These measures will be carried out by the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the involvement of the relevant agencies of the Ministry of Defense.
• A very important point: Every citizen must carry their identity documents while moving within the city at any time," the prime minister of Georgia stated.
Press Service of the Government Administration