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13 Aug, 2008 16:37

Ceasefire gives way to PR war

The information war between Russia and Georgia is continuing, even after a ceasefire agreement has stopped the military conflict. On Wednesday evening, Mikhail Saakashvili spread panic in Tbilisi, by claiming that Russian tanks are on the move towards the

For several hours, western news channels reported that Russian armoured vehicles were rumbling deeper into Georgia.

Framing the situation as “some very tense times in Georgia”, much of the western media raised concerns that Russia was breaching the peace agreement.

However, Russian peacekeepers say they're there to liquidise thousands of heavy weapons, which were dropped in the streets by retreating Georgians.

While the situation in Gori is grim, local officials are said to have fled the region. Russian attempts to organise a joint humanitarian effort have failed.

Local citizens are left there with no food, and the Russian military have been left to organise aid for them.

The main focus on CNN, for example, is the opposite – their sources claim torture and looting.

Meanwhile, as western media report that Russian tanks were heading towards Tbilisi, the Georgian government officially denied the claims, saying there is absolutely no danger to its citizens.

It seems many western news outlets don't count official sources as secure, and instead keep relying on their own sources. But as British Times newspaper claims, most of these sources are little more than rumour-mongers.

The newspaper’s article titled ‘Georgia loses the fight with Russia, but manages to win the PR war’ says:

“As foreign correspondents poured into Tbilisi a team of Belgian PR advisers launched a slick operation to keep them updated with e-mail alerts detailing the latest alleged aggressions by Russia and the Georgian Government’s reaction.

Some of the claims veered into outright exaggeration – such stating that Russian jets were “intensively bombing Tbilisi” or that Russian troops had taken Gori – but the 24-hour news culture meant that many organisations repeated them without independent verification”.