On January 11, Salome Zurabishvili convened her first press conference after being sworn-in as Georgia’s fifth President in December 2018. In an hour-long press conference, Zurabishvili focused on her priorities in the office and commented on a number of ongoing developments.
Among others, the President spoke on her recent initiative to regulate defamation, saying the law has to find a right balance between freedom of speech and protecting human dignity. Zurabishvili said the Presidential administration is ready for broad discussions on the issue.
“Today social networks have created an environment, where the sense of responsibility is very low; media outlets have their codes of conduct and individuals are protected [from defamation], but when it comes to social network accounts, they are sometimes anonymous or controlled from abroad, and we need to start thinking about that,” she stressed.
Zurabishvili refrained from expressing her position on the judiciary-related matters, saying briefly that the issue is important and that high public trust towards the judiciary will be “a precondition” for Georgia’s democratic development, and its EU integration.
“I am no longer a political figure, and it will be absolutely unacceptable if I express my personal position about individual judges,” Zurabishvili said. “I cannot be involved in these discussions, but the fact that there are such discussions in the ruling team is normal and necessary,” she added.
Like other government officials, President Zurabishvili refrained from congratulating Ukrainians on the independence of their Orthodox Church.
“It would be very easy to congratulate Ukrainians [personally] over the independence of their church, because this would be very natural considering our historical experience, but today I am not speaking in my personal capacity, I am speaking as President and I have a very huge responsibility to bear,” she noted.
“If the Georgian Orthodox Church is cautious due to certain consequences, which everyone knows, but I won’t speak of it today, I cannot assume the responsibility for aggravating the situation,” the President added.
The President spoke on foreign policy priorities as well, listing relations with the EU and NATO as Georgia’s top priorities. She stressed the key goal should be to ensure that “Georgia is more actively represented on the world map in every way in terms of international relations.”
Asked about restoration of diplomatic ties with Russia, Zurabishvili said she does not see any possibility of that happening presently. “I do not think, at this point Georgia can afford to start relations with Russia without coordinating this issue with its closest partners,” she said.