New Report Reveals Key Infodemic Topics in Georgia

A new report on “Infodemic in Georgia”, released by the Media Development Foundation (MDF), a local media watchdog on March 30, found that COVID-19 denial, conspiracy theories on its origins, and vaccine hesitancy marked the key topics for false information about the pandemic in 2020.

Traditional and social media monitoring throughout the year revealed that COVID-19 was frequently presented as man-made and artificially spread with the aim of “establishing global control and new world order” or a “digital dictatorship.”

MDF said conspiracy theories on digital chips being implanted through COVID-19 jabs, also vaccines and medications being tested in “Third World countries like Georgia” were widely circulated in the media.

The report highlighted that key sources of spreading “fake or misleading information about the coronavirus” were mostly linked with Russia or owned by its government.

MDF’s report was supported by USAID-funded “Promoting Integration, Tolerance, and Awareness (PITA)” program, administered by the UN Association of Georgia.

According to the watchdog, some clergy, journalists, and politicians “justified” vaccine hesitancy by invoking religious motives, and some promoted the “exceptional quality of the Georgian DNA” in resisting the virus.

MDF also noted that immunization was often viewed through a political lens, with Kremlin-linked media outlets promoting the Russian jab while “portraying Western vaccines as unsuccessful and unreliable.”

The watchdog said Beijing and Moscow were also portrayed as leaders in assisting other countries in the fight against COVID-19, “while the West did not show solidarity with others.” These narratives were used to sow skepticism towards Euro-Atlantic institutions, MDF added.

Meanwhile, certain far-right groups saw the coronavirus as “divine retribution” for liberalism and the Western lifestyle, according to the report.

In the report, MDF also recalled that the nativist Georgian March party called for the closure of borders with Iran and China due to the pandemic, and ex-President, UNM leader-in-exile Mikheil Saakashvili also demanded restricting travel with Beijing.

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