PM Meets Media, Says Changes May Be Made to Agents Bill After Presidential Veto

On May 10, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze held a meeting with representatives of both pro-government and critical media to discuss the reintroduced Foreign Agents Bill and the current situation in Georgia. During the heated meeting, the Prime Minister said that the bill will be adopted in the third reading, despite the loud criticism from the West and non-stop rallies against it, and noted that GD government is ready to make changes to the Foreign Agents’ law if it receives “legal comments from partners” within the presidential veto procedure.

He however defended the law throughout the long meeting, which began with his 20-minute monologue, in which PM lashed out at the journalists from critical media, accusing them of “spreading disinformation” and “speculation” that the government was swaying Georgia from its Euro-Atlantic integration course and moving toward Russia. He brushed off these accusations saying that the government wanted to move closer to the West, while also calling on the US to open visa-free travel, start direct flights, and establish free trade, and on the EU to open accession negotiations with Georgia.

Commenting on the violence that has been observed in the last few days, the Prime Minister shifted the blame on the opposition citing punching by the opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili of the GD majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze in the Parliament during the discussions over the Agents’ law. He also blamed the opposition for the harassment of GD politicians, Georgian national football players and journalists of pro-government channels, allegedly referring to the calls by a part of Georgian society for politicians and representatives of various professions to express their protest against the draft law.

The representatives of the critical media channels left the room in protest during the Prime Minister’s monologue. Eka Mishveladze, TV Pirveli presenter, was the first to openly express her displeasure with the fact that the Prime Minister called the journalists for a briefing and instead of hearing questions began his “propagandistic” speech. She left the room until the Q&A session began. Nino Zhizhilashvili (Formula TV) and Dea Mamiseishvili (Mtavari TV) followed her out, expressing their concern that their time for questions was being cut short when it was the first time in a while that any of the Georgian Dream representatives had sat down for an interview with the critical media.

Questions from pro-government TV channels included the questions concerning how Georgia can maintain its sovereignty in this changing global environment, why it is important to adopt this law, how Georgia can save itself from “Maidanization” supported and orchestrated by Western funding, and how relations with the West will continue after the law is adopted, despite their criticism.

Prime Minister emphasized that Georgia will be able to secure its sovereignty, as it has done many times in history, and that the adoption of the Agents’ law serves this purpose, because this law will make it clear from where the non-governmental organizations in Georgia are funded, and if it’s publicly known, every time these organizations will try to “start a revolution”, the donor organization will take responsibility for stopping these actions. This in PM’s view, is what will bring “peace and stability” to Georgia. As for the attempts at “Maidanization,” the PM said that the “collective UNM” doesn’t have enough resources for that and that Georgia is not Yanukovych’s Ukraine or the Georgia of 2003 for such revolutionary movements to take place.

Regarding the relations with the West and the harsh criticism of Georgia’s Western partners, Prime Minister Kobakhidze stated that the criticism is unfounded and vague, without concrete answers to what the West doesn’t like in the draft law. He noted that the Western countries are treating Georgia unfairly by having the same laws but criticizing Georgia for them, and that the GD government is ready for cooperation and consultations to improve this law, which they expect to happen after the presidential veto. The Prime Minister stressed that after the veto, the European countries and NGOs – “who are writing the vetoes for Zurabishvili” – will have to give a concrete explanation why they consider this or that article of the law unconstitutional and that the GD government is ready to work on changing what needs to be changed after hearing the “constructive criticism”.

As for the critical media representatives, the questions centered on the numerous cases of violence in the streets of Tbilisi, most of which have not been investigated as well as the dire consequences of hte law for the Georgian Euro-Atlantic integration and relations with strategic partners in the West. The opposition media representatives took the opportunity and addressed the audience of the pro-government channels that were broadcasting the meeting live, saying that these pro-government channels may not be telling their viewers the full truth or showing the full picture of what is really going on. The representative of Formula TV, Nino Zhizhilashvili, took the opportunity to remind the audience of the statements made by the officials of the Western countries, which clearly state that if Georgia adopts the law, it will lose all the fruits of EU integration – visa liberalization, candidate status and free trade agreement – that Georgia has achieved so far.

The discussions between the Prime Minister and the anchors of critical TV channels became heated on many occasions. The Prime Minister repeatedly reminded the journalists to keep in mind “intellect, IQ, politeness, culture” when addressing him, and on several occasions made derogatory comments about the media they represented, telling the anchors that they were representatives of certain politicians (Mtavari TV – Gvaramia; TV Pirveli – Khazaradze; Formula TV – Kezerashvili) and that they had the nerve to dare to criticize him and the GD party, while they should be “ashamed” for representing such politicians. There were also a number of derogatory comments specifically attacking individual journalists, with PM telling them that he can’t criticize their IQ or intellect because they don’t have any, and that they don’t represent the true “image of Georgian woman” because they aren’t polite.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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