Kakha Kaladze, Tbilisi Mayor and Secretary General of the ruling Georgian Dream party, announced a campaign to fight the spread of disinformation and fake news.
Kaladze said that “destructive opposition” tries to gain traction with voters through spreading disinformation, using its “own televisions” for this purpose.
“So, a question arises how to counter fake news – certainly, through delivering facts, truth and reliable information about a specific issue,” Kaladze said in his video comments on Facebook.
The Tbilisi Mayor noted that although he is very active and always tries to provide comprehensive information regarding ongoing projects, he feels “huge responsibility” not to leave “the lies and slander fabricated by marginalized politicians” unanswered.
“Elections are looming and these specific politicians and their televisions are trying to mislead the public and we should not allow them to do it,” Kaladze said.
The Tbilisi Mayor was apparently referring to pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV, TV Pirveli and Formula TV, as the poster announcing about the campaign depicted altered logos of just these televisions, with word “lies” inserted into each title.
“We do not fabricate anything; we will answer with arguments, facts and true information regarding a specific project. Anyone who tries to act incorrectly and tries to mislead the society will receive a punch of truth in the face,” he added.
Appearing at 22:00 in front of Tbilisi City logos, Kaladze tried to dispel some of the reports concerning Tbilisi rehabilitation and infrastructural projects.
Georgian Public Defender and politicians from both ruling and opposition parties commented on Kaladze’s initiative.
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said that “we should together fight against fake news, but the changed logos create a feeling that its real purpose is to make statements against specific media outlets.”
MP Roman Gotsiridze of the United National Movement (UNM) slammed Kaladze’s initiative as an attempt to curb free speech.
European Georgia stated that the ruling party is concerned over its failure to control the media.
“It is cynicism, when Kaladze and any of Ivanishvili’s clowns are talking about propaganda, especially as we all see social stratification and encouraging violence in this country,” MP Giga Bokeria said.
The media have questioned the need for Kaladze to engage personally in dispelling rumors in what seems like a party-political campaign. To inform citizens, Tbilisi municipality has established, in 2018, a special Agency for Communication with Citizens, which employs 55 staff and spent close to 550 thousand GEL in public funds on ads in 2020, Radio Liberty’s report found. According to the same report, half of that money went to TV Imedi, a channel loyal to the government. In 2020, TV and radio ads were also purchased from Rustavi 2, Studio “Maestro” and TV Pirveli – the latter being one of the channels lambasted by the Mayor for spreading “fake news.”
Six months before the parliamentary elections in Georgia, Facebook removed a network of pages, groups and user accounts openly linked to Georgian Dream-affiliated Espersona. It also removed a network of accounts affiliated with the United National Movement.