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Posted on: 01 Mar 2016

Media Development Foundation in ECRI Report

The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released its fifth monitoring cycle report on March 1 and it covers the situation from 2012 through June 17, 2015. In the part related to hate speech, ECRI cites a report from the Media Development Foundation and offers a set of recommendations.

The report focuses on the problems of signing budget contracts with several media outlets with xenophobic and homophobic attitudes, as well as on intolerant comments made by some high ranking politicians. 

Media

"During 2013-14, according to information obtained by MDF, Obiektivi received at least USD 25 000 and the newspapers Alia and Kviris Chronika together around USD 20 000, from government ministries and agencies as part of advertisement contracts and other agreements”[1], reads the report and offers the following recommendation:

Recommendation:

• ECRI recommends that the authorities review their contracts with media outlets and cancel or not renew them in cases where media are known to engage in racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech. The authorities should also ensure that future contracts contain a clause stipulating that racist or homo- /transphobic hate speech will result in contract termination. (33).

Citing MDF monitoring, the report focuses on xenophobic comments made by media union Obiektivi, newspapers Alia and Kviris Kronika, as well as on the following problematic tendencies:

  • "Islamophobic hate speech is also growing… Such mistrust is expressed, for example, when Adjara’s Muslims are portrayed as Turkish agents. In January 2015, the weekly magazine Kviris Chronika wrote: "[the former President] gave Georgian passports to about 10,000 foreign Muslims, and turned Adjara, already facing the danger of Turkization, into a Turkish share. Islamic State in Syria ..." (30).
  • "Obiektivi TV has long pursued an anti-Turkish editorial policy, visible in its talk shows through comments made by presenters and the choice of guests[2]. It also led a campaign against a new mosque in Batumi. Irma Inashvili, founder of Obiektivi and leader of the Alliance of Patriots party, stated: "First and foremost, they realise that threat which the construction of a new mosque, or to be more precise, erecting a symbol of might of Turkey in the center of Batumi can cause”[3](30).
  • Hate speech also affects other religious minorities. After the government’s decision to provide compensatory funding to Muslims, Armenian Apostolics, Catholics and Jews, an Obiektivi presenter commented: "Let us finance the Satanists too then"[4]. On the occasion of an international festival organised by the Christian-Evangelical Church in Tbilisi in 2014, the Alia newspaper wrote: "This is a usual anti-Christian heretical gathering and no one should attend it!”[5](31). 

High ranking politicians

The report focuses on intolerant comments made by the following high ranking politicians:

  • Citing the statement made Civil Platform "No to Phobia!”, the report notes that there have been allegations that Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, spoke with xenophobic connotations about citizens of China, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt. The report also provides an explanation by Justice Minister, who said that her words have been incorrectly interpreted, as well as the Justice Ministry’s statement in response to the Iranian Embassy’s criticism (26).
  •  In terms of anti-Black racism and xenophobia, Tamaz Avdaliani, former deputy chairman of the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, stated that there should be different criteria for acquiring Georgian citizenship for Africans "given that we are developing, we don’t really need extra spongers.[6]” (26)
  • Davit Darakhvelidze (Georgian Dream; then nominated as Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees), made racist remarks, saying "every negro you meet in Tbilisi is a citizen, Indian and Chinese as well”, and "Georgia must be for Georgians.” According to the report, he was subsequently appointed as minister, in spite of protests from civil society (26). 
  • On 24 April 2012, during a discussion about commemorating the Armenian genocide, Azer Suleymanov, MP for the then-ruling United National Movement, made racist remarks about Armenians in a parliamentary debate (27).
  • In 2011, the former Minister for Conflict Resolution, Goga Khaindrava, in line with an article published in Asaval-Dasavali, in which the government was portrayed as "Armenian lobbyists”, spoke with a negative attitude about the ethnic origin of leading MPs. The newspaper is itself well known for its inflammatory rhetoric (27).
  • In July 2010, then President Mikheil Saakashvili, made a racist remark about Black people during a discussion with the Ministry of Finance: "Then are we Negroes or what? Explain to me why are we acting like savages?” During a speech one year earlier, he had asked the rhetorical question: "Are we Papuans, why do we behave like this?”(28)

 Homo- / transphobic hate speech

The report separately focuses on homo-/transphobic hate speech. 

  • MDF’s monitoring project in 2014 registered the highest number of cases in the area of anti-LGBT hate speech, with 41 incidents during the three months’ period. The most senior political figure engaging in such hate speech was then- minister Davit Darakhvelidze, who stated that "homosexuals are diseased people”. Shalva Natelashvili, Labour Party, portrayed homosexuality and transsexuality as a contagious disease. Because of the inclusion of sexual orientation, Asaval-Dasavali Magazine referred to the new anti-discrimination law as "the pederasts’ law". 

 To settle the problem of hate speech, ECRI offers to create an efficient monitoring mechanism, which will have a permanent nature. 

  •  Hate speech against ethnic and religious minorities continues to be a widespread problem in Georgia and these groups are still often viewed mainly through a security lens (25), the report reads. 

Recommendations:

ECRI recommends that the Georgian authorities establish an effective monitoring system for racist and homo-/transphobic hate speech. They should build on the expertise of the Public Defender and relevant NGOs(24). 

ECRI report in Georgian is available at the following link: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/Country-by-country/Georgia/GEO-CbC-V-2016-002-GEO.pdf

The English version is available at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/Country-by-country/Georgia/GEO-CbC-V-2016-002-ENG.pdf



[1] Information received from MDF

[2]MDF 2013: 27.

[3]Irma Inashvili, in: Obiektivi, Night Studio 15.04.2013, quoted in: MDF 2013: 30.

[4] Ilia Chachibaia, in: Obiektivi, Night Studio 24.02.2014.

[5]Zhana Asanidze, in: Alia newspaper 28.05.2014, quoted in: MDF/GDI 2014(c): 6.

[6] Alia newspaper 12.03.2014, quoted in: MDF 2014(a): 17.

 

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