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14 Nov, 2009 07:18

Anti-Russian propaganda on Georgian TV channel

A Russian language TV channel is to air in Georgia, targeting ethnic minorities in the Caucasus region. Russian observers are already predicting that it will be a Georgian propaganda tool.

Founded and owned by Georgia Public Broadcasting, the outlet will be available not just in Georgia, but in other countries in the region too – including Russia. Viewers will be able to tune in via satellite and online.

The channel is expected to start broadcasting sometime next year.

Russia’s relations with Georgia have been at rock bottom since the South Ossetian conflict, and some say the channel will be a counter to the Russian media.

Sergey Mikheev, political analyst told RT: “I think given the mood of our government it will have a lot of anti-Russian propaganda. Maybe this will change one day, but for now we can expect a lot on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as on Russia's North Caucasus – it will be used to stir up the minds of locals in the North Caucasus.”

Information about the new channel was leaked several weeks ago by a Georgian journalist from another outlet. Since then, the project has been widely discussed in the Russian media, with all major news agencies, TV stations, and newspapers making a point of speculating about its purpose, though nothing had been revealed until now.

Levan Gakheladze, chairman of the board in Georgia Public Broadcasting, says: “Our focus groups are the ethnic minorities in the region. We want to inform not only those people, who live here and do not speak Georgian, but also neighboring countries about what's happening in Georgia.”

Russian journalist and head of the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations Oleg Panfilov will have his own program on the channel. This will focus on Georgian culture and the traditions of the ethnic groups living in the country.

He is a controversial figure in Russia, and openly supported Georgia in last year’s war in South Ossetia.

He says: “I think Georgia ended up in an information void following the war. My program will not focus on just politics. It will be about Georgia itself, and about its ethnic minorities. It’s just another normal channel, nothing to do with propaganda.”

Some in Georgia are skeptical about the channel's vision:

“This is a serious provocation on behalf of the Georgian government. You can be sure they won't be launching any white doves of peace…They're going to employ some very controversial figures. This is yet another show of ambition from the current government, which has already caused Georgia to lose a large part of its territory last year,” Erosi Kitsmarishvili, former Georgian Ambassador to Russia, claims.

Moscow and Tbilisi have not been on speaking terms since last summer's August conflict in South Ossetia. How this new channel will affect relations between the two remains to be seen.