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False Georgian media reports damaging the peace in Abkhaz conflict zone

Monday, January 28
For months, Georgia television and newspapers have gleefully reported shootouts between drunken peacekeepers, raids on ethnic Georgian villages in Gali and the heroic efforts of ethnic Georgians to cross the administrative boundary with Abkhazia to vote for the incumbent on January 5.

Many of those reports, UN observers found, bear little or no resemblance to reality. It is not journalism, but grotesque and irresponsible propaganda.

Among the more shameless moves by Georgian ‘journalists,’ according to the UN secretary-general’s latest report on the Abkhaz conflict, was bringing armloads of election pamphlets—provocatively titled “We Will Be Back”—to scatter around the administrative border and then film, portraying them to be the work of patriotic Georgian campaigners.

That news crew then had the gall to call themselves victims when Russian peacekeepers pushed them away from filming a checkpoint, which anyone with a camera knows are off-limits for photography.

Undoubtedly, portraying Russian peacekeepers as drunken bullies goes over well with viewers in Georgia. And playing up the courage of ethnic Georgians who braved a crossing across the Enguri River to reach Zugdidi polling booths (the border was open, UNOMIG said) warms hearts amongst voters irreversibly tethered to the breakaway territories.

But it capitalizes upon and perpetuates fear and uncertainty among those living along the administrative border. Whether due to programming decisions or politically-directed editorial pressure, false reports of abuses and violence in the conflict zone do nothing for the cause of peacefully regaining Georgia’s territory. They serve only to undermine the force of the truth, and put a harried population even further on edge. If the underdeveloped and tendentious Georgian media aspire to greater heights, there can be no such egregious lapses in responsible coverage.