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
“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
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Minister of Defense of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili.
The development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia in various fields, including in a military one was hailed at the meeting. The sides emphasized the importance of key energy projects the two countries are jointly involved in. The significance of the successful realization of the Southern Gas Corridor was also underlined at the meeting.
The sides noted that the economic cooperation and investment making between Azerbaijan and Georgia contribute to the development of bilateral relations.
As it was pointed out during today's meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov, the Georgia-Azerbaijan Intergovernmental Economic Commission will resume its meeting next year.
The meeting emphasized the strategic partnership and good neighborly relations between the two countries, and commended the Prime Minister's recent official visit to Azerbaijan.
Special emphasis during the meeting between the Prime Minister of Georgia and the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan was placed on the process of delimitation of the Georgia-Azerbaijan state border.
The parties underlined that this process must be carried out in the context of the strategic partnership between the two countries, taking into account the interests of and friendship between the states.
The conversation also revolved around enhancing the effectiveness and competitiveness of the energy corridor, and around the need of continuous joint efforts for tapping into both countries' transit potential.
In this context, the parties praised the inauguration of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), one of the key components of the Southern Gas Corridor.
The meeting also underscored the dire humanitarian situation in Georgia's occupied territories. The Prime Minister spoke of Doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili's unlawful detention in the occupied territory, and emphasized the significance of joint efforts from friend nations in order to achieve his timely release. Giorgi Gakharia thanked the Republic of Azerbaijan for its strong support of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Elmar Mammadyarov has arrived in Tbilisi to participate in the 8th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan, held in the ongoing trilateral format between the countries.
Prime Minister's Press Office
Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze talked about problems with respect to human rights across Georgia’s occupied regions during the address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Bakhtadze said that 20% of Georgia’s territory still remained occupied by Russia and about 300 thousand IDPs were unable to return to their homes. According to PM, the militarization of occupied regions was ongoing and the de-population index was constantly increasing.
PM touched upon the frequent cases of abductions of locals and deaths of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, Davit Basharuli and Irakli Kvaratskhelia.
PM thanked the PACE for supporting “Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili” list and said that Russia tried to block all peace initiatives of the Georgian government. “With means of ethnic discrimination, Russia is trying to fully erase the Georgian identity, but this will never happen,” Bakhtadze said.
Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg
Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze will address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today. Bakhtadze will have 20 minutes to deliver the speech. He will then have 40 minutes to answer questions of European MPs regarding the achievements and challenges of Georgia on path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Georgian PM is being in Strasbourg with a working visit. During the visit, the Prime Minister will hold meetings with PACE President Liliane Maury-Pasquier and Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, followed by joint statements for the press.
Other bilateral meetings are also scheduled within the frameworks of the visit. The Head of Government will also visit Georgia’s Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe, where he will meet with the students of the Sunday school.
Mamuka Bakhtadze will host an official reception celebrating the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s accession to the Council of Europe. The Georgian delegation includes Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Tamar Chugoshvili, and leader of the parliamentary majority Archil Talakvadze.
Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg
Two Georgian honey producers are presenting their products at the International Green Week, a one-of-a-kind annual international exhibition of the food, agriculture and gardening industries, in Berlin on 18-27 January. The event brings together over 1,700 exhibitors with over 100,000 products from all over the world.
Georgia will be featured through a range of products at the fair this year, but it is the first time that European consumers and trade visitors will have a chance to try Georgian honey, which is entering the European market under the brand name ‘TAPLI’ – the Georgian word for honey.
The creation of the TAPLI branding was preceded by a rigorous effort to develop the export capacities of Georgian honey, which took place in the framework of the EU4Business project “SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia”.
The Georgian stand at the International Green Week is organised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, which also developed the TAPLI brand with support from the EU and the German government.
The SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia project, part of the EU4Business initiative, assists Georgian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become more competitive and adapt to the new regulatory environment created under the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU.
Views on the reform of the educational system, the necessity of youth engagement in the country’s ongoing processes, and the importance of human capital development were discussed by Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze during today’s meeting with Georgian students studying in New York.
The students familiarized themselves with the views of the Head of Government on the changes planned at every stage of the system of education, involving the introduction of innovative approaches.
The Prime Minister underlined the importance of the maximal engagement of youth, emphasizing that he welcomes their every idea and active participation in every process related to the reform’s successful implementation and the country’s development.
According to Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Government’s goal is to create in the country an environment enabling youth to make full use of their potential and abilities. The meeting with the Prime Minister was attended by 17 bachelor’s and master’s degree program students, including through financing from the International Education Center of Georgia.
Prime Minister's Press Office
Tbilisi, Georgia, March 30 – Georgian civil society leaders with its international partner, Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) organized a seminar on the role of civil society in peace-building process, on the occasion of the 2nd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) at David Aghmashenebeli University of Georgia.
The commemoration was initiated from Seoul, South Korea on March 14 with 1,000 participants from politics, religion, and civic groups at home and abroad. This international advocacy events were held in 166 cities of 71 countries including Georgia, Ukraine and Germany to raise awareness of local communities on how a peaceful environment can be facilitated by the principles of the DPCW.
During his speech in the Tbilisi seminar, Mr. Avtandil Otinashivili, editor-in-chief of "Newsday Georgia", who had attended the Seoul conference said, “The DPCW is of great importance for every country, including Georgia. We want to avoid wars and together we must do our best to leave our children a planet without war.”
In Tbilisi, religious leaders, youth representatives and media participated, and video materials including keynote speech of the chairman Mr. Man Hee Lee of HWPL and the footsteps of the DPCW and the world wide campaign to legislate peace were presented.
Chairman Lee, a Korean War veteran himself, appealed the need of peaceful means of conflict resolution and the responsibility of every individual in peace-building during his speech. “Law of today cannot compensate for the lives sacrificed from war. What we need is an instrument that protects human life, the very law that prevents war.” “Rather than waiting to take peace for granted, it is we who should put an end to war to protect humanity and our globe, and leave peace as a legacy for future generations.”
The participants also discussed the urgent necessity of carrying out peacekeeping process guided under the DPCW and the role of civil society in order to avoid any tragedy like the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Ms. Mariem Iremadze, the chairwoman of Association for Development, Education and Social Involvement said, “We[Georgians] have suffered from the negative effects of war in our country. We all need to promote peace in our society as much as we can.” She also pointed out, “Because the implementation of the DPCW is connected to the theme of collaborative governance, the government and the citizens should support each other for promoting peace and resolving conflicts in our country.”
For civil society’s part, she explained what youth can specifically do by saying, “Youth is our hope and future of the society. I think engaging and inspiring more youth groups to promote peace is the best effort that our organization can make and we will continue to involve in the activities with HWPL to the aim of promoting peace”
Ms. Kayla Jang, a former delegation of HWPL to Georgia also addressed the importance of civil society in building collaborative governance by referring the recent 43rd round of Geneva International Discussions (GID) on March 28, co-chaired by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the EU, and the UN that brings together the representatives Georgia, Russia, and Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as the US.
“Since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the GID has been the one and only remained platform for the peace-talk. But what we heard, with a sense of disappointment, from the March 28 talk was only that, it still couldn’t finalize the draft joint statement on non-use of force among the relevant parties. In order to push it forward, we need a bottom-up approach for global peace. The civil also has to raise voice on their aspiration to the state of being without war and participate in the peace-building process with the authorities.” she said.
During the interview, Mr. A. Otinashivili also said, “Unfortunately, the round of the Geneva consultations ended in vain, but this does not mean that we should stop discussing topical issues. On the contrary, we must continue the peace process.” And he emphasized, “Civil society and the media are of great importance. Civil society must consolidate the people around one goal, to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts. And the media should do everything so that people can hear this slogan.”
The DPCW with its 10 articles and 38 clauses is advocating a peaceful means to resolve wars and conflicts. It includes provisions such as avoiding war-related actions, respecting international law and ethnic/religious harmony, and promoting a culture of peace.
- The host organization, HWPL is affiliated with UN DPI and UN ECOSOC and announced the DPCW on March 14, 2016, to strengthen a solidarity of peace through a comprehensive cooperation of all sectors of society and to establish legally binding international law necessary for peacebuilding.
- Full Text of the DPCW, http://hwpl.kr/en/initiative/lawForPeace
- The latest Geneva International Discussions(GID), https://www.osce.org/chairmanship/376450
On 13-14 February, the Georgian capital Tbilisi hosted the first training seminar for the country’s civil society organisations and local authorities on drafting grant applications.
The event was organised by the EU-funded Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility at the request of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia and aimed to prepare Georgians to make high-quality applications to Calls for Proposals for projects aimed at strengthening civil society organisations and local authorities.
During the two-day seminar, over 20 participants learned how to prepare concept notes and proposals to apply for grants under the abovementioned thematic EU programmes. They obtained practical skills and knowledge on project preparation, based on the Logical Framework Approach.
Similar training seminars will be organised in the next 10 days when more than 100 representatives of Georgian civil society organisations and local authorities will participate in four workshops in Tbilisi and Kutaisi.