Anti-Western Propaganda Report by the Media Development Foundation released on April 18, 2017.
On April 18, the Media Development Foundation (MDF) held a presentation of its Anti-Western Propaganda report in Tbilisi.
The report is based on the monitoring of Georgian media outlets and covers the period between January 1 and December 31, 2016, highlighting “anti-Western messages and disinformation disseminated by Georgian media outlets and other sources – politicians, clergy, civil organizations and representatives of society.”
The previous Anti-Western Propaganda report by MDF covered the period between February 17, 2014 and February 18, 2015.
MDF monitored eight broadcasters in the reporting period: Georgian Public Broadcaster, Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, Tabula, GDS, Obieqtivi TV, Kavkasia TV; seven online outlets: Sakinformi, Netgazeti, Marshalpress, Interpressnews, Georgia & World, PIA, Kviris Palitra; and four newspapers: Rezonansi, Prime Time, Asaval-Dasavali, Alia. Apart from them, the MDF report also covered randomly selected disinformation materials about the West found in social media.
The MDF report divides the outlets promoting anti-Western narrative into two groups: openly pro-Kremlin outlets and anti-liberal, ethno-nationalist outlets. The report authors note, however, that “messages of these two groups are largely identical; the only difference between them is the degree of openness of support towards the Kremlin policy.”
The main sources spreading anti-Western propaganda in Georgia as revealed by the MDF monitoring include: Obieqtivi TV, Asaval-Dasavali newspaper, online outlets Georgia & World and Sakinformi, and the Alia Holding newspapers – Alia and Kviris Qronika. A relatively lower number of anti-Western comments were noted in the following outlets: Kavkasia TV, Kviris Palitra newspaper, Maestro TV, and online news agency Marshalpress.
Political parties partaking in the anti-Western propaganda effort according to the MDF report include the Alliance of Patriots (entered the Parliament of Georgia as a result of the 2016 parliamentary election), Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement – United Georgia, and a number of smaller political groups, including the Georgian Troupe, the Nationals, the Industry Will Save Georgia, Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia, the Socialist Georgia, the Our Homeland, the Centrists, the Tetrebi, the Leftist Alliance, the Traditionalists, the National Forum and the Free Georgia.
The report notes that “throughout 2016, several representatives of the Georgian Dream coalition made statements that ran counter to the officially declared pro-Western course of the ruling party. In the spring of 2016, ahead of the parliamentary elections, the coalition was left by two politicians (Gogi Topadze, Tamaz Mechiauri) who were most articulate against the West; however, after the elections, Gogi Topadze’s party, the Industry Will Save Georgia, made it into the parliamentary majority again.”
According to the report, “majority of nongovernmental organizations distinguished for their anti-Western messages were created after 2012. Two of them (Eurasian Institute and the Global Research Center) have direct links with the International Eurasia Movement, the organization founded by the ideologist of aggressive Russian expansionist policy Aleksandr Dugin, as well as with Lev Gumilev Center.” Other organizations involved in the propaganda effort include the Union of Human Rights Defenders, the Union of Orthodox Christian Parents, and the “Stalin.” Several representatives of the Georgian clergy also frequently voiced anti-Western messages.
As part of the monitoring effort, the total of 1,258 anti-Western messages were analyzed, 32.7% of which concerned issues of identity, human rights and values, while 20.1% and 20% were related to NATO and the West in general, respectively, followed by anti-American messages with 13.5%. Messages against the European Union stood at 8.9%.
Typology of Anti-Western Messages, Anti-Western Propaganda Report.
Among the main narratives of the anti-Western propaganda is the alleged threat to the Georgian identity. According to this discourse, as identified by the MDF report, “the West tries to impose homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, zoophilia and perversion and fights against national identity, traditions, Orthodox Christianity, family as a social institution.”
The report notes the increase in anti-NATO messages as compared to previous year, including claims that Georgia’s NATO aspirations are utopian, as well as portrayals of the Alliance as a threat, and promotion of the idea that “Georgia’s integration into NATO would result in the loss of Russia-occupied regions of Abkhazia and Samachablo [Tskhinvali Region].”
USA is also particularly targeted, being portrayed as “instigator of violence, conflicts, color revolutions and coups,” as well as the “inciter of terrorism.” The EU and the Association Agreement “were equated to the obligation to receive migrants and the threat of terrorism, while visa liberalization and European integration were equated to a demographic threat.” The propaganda narrative also promotes the idea that the European Union will disintegrate anyway. Meanwhile, “participation of Georgian military personnel in international missions was portrayed not as a contribution to collective security but as a sacrifice made for others.”
The propaganda messages also portray the Russian Federation as a fellow Orthodox country that is a counterweight to the West, and justify Moscow’s policies, such as military operations in Syria.
Besides Georgia’s foreign partners, the propaganda narrative also targets Georgian NGOs, accusing them of selling their own country’s interests and serving foreign powers. MDF reported calls “to ban funding of nongovernmental organizations from abroad as well as international organizations… while portraying Russia as an exemplary country in this endeavor.”
MDF notes that outlets engaged in propaganda in most cases avoided indicating the sources of their disinformation to make it appear more credible. As a result, the audience “perceives the information as coming from direct sources and does not associate it with the initial source.” In most of these cases, MDF said, the Georgian media concealed Russian primary sources.
MDF study also lists specific propaganda methods employed by the Georgian-language outlets: disinformation (fake news); conspiracy [theories]; demonization; soviet myths; picturing satirical-humoristic publications as genuine information; misleading titles; photo and video manipulations.