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Posted on: 06 Sep 2018

Russian media forum in Georgia is yet another demonstration of Russia’s hybrid war

Georgia has been a target of Russia’s aggressive actions many times. One-fifth of the country’s territory has been occupied as a result. In addition, in order to achieve its strategic goals in Georgia, the Russian Federation is actively using "soft power” through aggressive media propaganda, establishing non-governmental organizations and foundations and organizing various forums. One of the main goals of these activities is to strengthen anti-Western sentiments among the public and to further polarize Georgia’s population.

On 5-7 September 2018, a South Caucasus forum entitled the Role of the Media in Restoring Confidence in the Region will be held in Tbilisi, funded by the Russian president’s grants fund. The Russian journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations participating in the forum are supporters of the Russian state policies.

From the Georgian side, the Georgia and World newspaper is the organizer of the event. Its founder, Aleksandre Chachia, is a Georgian businessman working in Russia, with close connections to Vladimir Putin. In 2014, Putin awarded him with the Order of Honour. According to the journalistic investigation of  Studio Monitor, in order to promote Russian interests in Georgia, Chachia established a local non-governmental organization in the Samegrelo Region, the western part of Georgia, entitled Samegrelo and a newspaper, Ilori, which is distributed among the population free of charge. The Georgia and World newspaper and its internet edition Geworld.ge are notable for strong pro-Russian and anti-Western sentiments.

It is our opinion that this forum, considering past actions and statements made by the Russian so-called experts participating in it, is another attempt of demonstrating Russia’s soft power and, correspondingly, is damaging to Georgia’s interests.

It is important that this kind of a gathering is not being held in Georgia for the first time. While in 2013-2014, it was just a Russian-Georgia media forum, its composition in the following years was expanded, including representatives from other states in the Caucasus Region.

Since 2012, the Russian foundations have stepped up their activities in Georgia. One of them is the Primakov Centre, founded by the Gorchakov Fund created by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The director of this center is Dimitri Lortkipanidze, one of the leaders of the Georgian March.

It is noteworthy that the Georgian State Security Service confirmed the existence of the problem in its 2017 report. According to the report, the special services of various countries continue using the "hybrid war” tactics to fulfill their tasks, and one of their main goals is to galvanize anti-Western sentiments among the Georgian public.

It is an unequivocally positive development that four participants of this forum were not allowed to enter Georgia over a violation of the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia, however, this was still a one-off occurrence.

It is our assessment that there is no systemic approach. It is unfortunate that there is no strategy and action plan on how the Georgian state and the Georgian public should counter the threats posed by the Russian hybrid war.

The state must have a consistent, clear strategy against the Russian information war and a corresponding effective institutional and legal mechanism to implement this strategy. The effective mechanisms of meticulously enforcing the Law on Occupied Territories are also a must.

In this regard, we consider it a number one task that the authorities should thoroughly enforce and toughen the control over the sources of funding of this and similar events. It should also look into the identity of persons/organizations who facilitate the Russian soft power activities in Georgia, identify the sources of their funding and stop the activities aimed against Georgia’s national interests and in Russia’s favor.

Transparency International Georgia

Georgia’s Reforms Associates

In-Depth Reporting and Advocacy Center

United Nations Association of Georgia

Society and Banks

Media Development Foundation

Civil Development Agency

Georgian Institute of Politics

Green Alternative

Georgian Farmers’ Association

Georgian Democracy Initiative

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information

Economic Policy Research Center

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy

Atlantic Council of Georgia

Open Society Foundation
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