CRACKING THE DOOR OPEN After a moment of confusion on reopening borders to foreign visitors, Georgia chose to follow a prudent path of conditional reciprocity. France, Germany, and the three Baltic states that have themselves lifted barriers for Georgians and have relatively stabilized the pandemic will be welcomed to Georgia with
pointed thermometers open arms, even without prior PCR testing. Some conditions apply, as they like to put it in ads – so read our article for details. Spain and Romania may soon join the list. A murmur of bewilderment was heard on social media since Georgians returning from those very same countries will be herded into quarantine. Epidemiologists explain that this precaution is advisable since Georgians have more social contacts than tourists do. Possibly. One thing is clear – the Georgian government is, in some ways, hostage of its own success. When you have free BBC publicity extolling your COVID-fighting prowess ahead of the elections, would you want to ruin that?! Then again, economic collapse is not the vote-winner either. So the delicate juggling is likely to prevail.
ON A COLD TRAIL You don’t normally see the entire nation playing a novice detective in a heart-rending case, yet this is exactly what has been happening in Georgia. Glued to their TV screens, citizens watch as TV anchors unpack a mystery behind the tragic death of Giorgi Shakarashvili, a 19-year-old footballer, who disappeared after a birthday party and was found dead in the river. Although the Police try to keep their lead, the media frenzy shows that the Georgian public does not easily believe officials. No wonder. Botched investigation of Khorava street murders, replete with prosecutorial coverups, shushed witnesses, and detectives failing to explain their actions to the parliamentary inquest, is still fresh in public memory. There are obvious insinuations, that similar flaws can be present in this fresh case. But beyond the pertinent point about law enforcement, Georgia has to face up to the problem with its culture of violence, which leaves a deadly trail among its youngsters.
STRATCOMS OFF COURSE? The growing realization of the threat posed by malicious Russian information operations led to mushrooming of Strategic Communications Departments (StratCom) in the Georgian government, often trained and partially funded by Western donors. Yet, MDF, a media watchdog, found that 22 out of 24 cases that the government, Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Defense StratComs covered to in their online posts where opposition media broadcasts. Only two posts were tackling information originating from the Russian government (concerning Lugar Lab case) and the media (a fake story about alleged mistreatment of Russian tourists). Is national political debate a fair target for StratComs? Or are these offices and civil servants used for partisan goals rather than national security? Time for some cool-headed discussion.
That’s full lid for today!