On June 3-4, 2022, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and the University of Georgia, as well as the University-based Investigative Media Lab, held a conference on “The World Finally Sees It”: Hybrid Warfare, Disinformation and History in CEE".
The opening remarks were made by the Executive Director of IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili and the Rector of the University of Georgia, Konstantine Topuria.
"Recent years defined by the war and the global pandemic in Ukraine have imposed new challenges to society around the world, where disinformation dominates as an effective weapon. The Kremlin's disinformation policy is largely based on the instrumentalization of the falsified history of the former Soviet republics," said Giorgi Kldiashvili.
Konstantine Topuria spoke about the defeat of Georgia in a hybrid war against Russia. According to him, the efforts of the academy, non-governmental organizations and the public are crucial to turn the situation in favour of Georgia and the country to deal with future aggression from Russia.
The keynote speaker at the event was Nika Aleksejeva, a leading researcher at the Atlantic Council, who spoke on Kremlin disinformation and the techniques of foreign intervention in Ukraine before and after the war. Students and attendees learned about the latest trends in Russian hybrid warfare, as well as innovative techniques for exposing disinformation.
At the conference, in a roundtable, research of disinformation and challenges were discussed by experts working in this field in Georgia: Mikheil Benidze, Chief of Party, Georgia Information Integrity Program (GIIP); IDFI Researcher, Nino Gozalishvili; Mariam Gersamia, Chairwoman of Media and Communication Educational and Research Center; Anton Vatcharadze, Head of IDFI Memory and Disinformation Studies, and Nika Mamuladze, Senior Disinformation Researcher at the Georgian Reform Association (GRASS). The discussion was moderated by Natia Kaladze, Director of the School of Social Sciences of the University of Georgia.
During the discussion, the speakers discussed the disinformation narratives in Georgia that existed in parallel with the Russia-Ukraine war. They also analysed about how Russian narratives have been brought to the Georgian public space by pro-Russian, radical right-wing groups and what information is being spread on social media.
IDFI researcher Nino Gozalishvili spoke about Russian disinformation trends in Ukraine, noting that the scope of Russian disinformation, as well as the tone of Russian disinformation, has increased and intensified since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She also noted that a critical perspective on the historiography of the region needs to become one of the strategic directions in the future, given that the Russian government is creating for itself a legitimate historical context, with a fragmented and misinterpreted historical narrative.
The conference was held within the framework of the spring semester the joint program by IDFI and the University of Georgia "Disinformation and Propaganda Studies: History, Theories and Means of Debunking". The aim of the program is to create a space for discussion in the university on issues related to propaganda, media literacy and cyber security. The participants of the mentioned program and the students of the University of Georgia presented their researches at the conference. The panels were moderated by Sopho Gelava, Head of the Investigative Media Lab; Andro Gotsiridze, Founder of the Cyber Security studies and Education Centre, and Anton Vacharadze, Head of IDFI Memory and Disinformation Studies.
At the end of the event, conference participants were awarded with certificates.
The conference was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
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