On March 17, 2022, Executive Director of IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili, took part in the Community of Practice Session III "Leveraging Transparency to Counter Foreign Illiberal Influences: The Role of Legislatures" organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP). The aim of the session was to discuss legislative measures that promote transparency in the information ecosystem, combatting opaque debt, and exposing foreign financing of political parties. It is noteworthy that session participants had the opportunity to listen to the presentations on Opaque Debt (by Bradley Murg, Paragon International University), Information Operations (by Jessica Brandt, Brookings) and Malign Foreign Funding of Political Parties (by Joshua Rudolph, USAID).
Giorgi Kldiashvili moderated the session on Legislative measures to promote transparency in the information ecosystem. The session provided lessons, address challenges, and examples of effective legislative commitments related to transparency and oversight of media ownership, political advertising, telecom and radio infrastructure projects, and press freedom.
Global research conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) has shown that the impact of illiberal influences can be offset by resilient democratic institutions. While levels and types of resilience can vary widely, the role of transparency is particularly critical in enabling greater scrutiny and diminishing space for suspicion and doubt to be exploited by disinformation. Generally, OGP recommends to develop or reinforce legal frameworks that protect the rights of activists, journalists, and independent media. These include establishing gender-sensitive/ responsive protocols; creating mechanisms that allow for independent and public-funded media platforms and avoid concentration of media ownership; and challenging or introducing amendments to draconian laws that may stifle a citizen’s right to dissent.
During the session, Giorgi, and the session participants focused on different issues such as: development of transparency related policy reforms and conducting oversights by the legislative bodies; addressing OGP commitments on tackling the foreign illiberal influences implemented; and fostering the implementation in decision making process of such principles such as accountability, openness of beneficial ownership registry, protection of human rights and ensuring the access to verifiable and free data.
Various documents reflect and mention disinformation and propaganda as the highest threat for security of Georgia. Russia’s malicious information operations mainly aim to subvert the Georgian state and nullify its Euro-Atlantic hopes. The illiberal influences drastically increased after the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. There are constant messages in Media and Internet sources that the West has left Ukraine alone and sanctions imposed on Russia don’t have real effect.
Trends of illiberal influences in Georgia are distinguished by several factors: our country is highly vulnerable to Russian influence operations and disinformation; illiberal propaganda is strongly influenced by Soviet and post-Soviet history; Disinformation narratives often build upon the far-right rhetoric and instrumentalize emotions and fears. Some of the openly pro-Russian political parties’ own media holdings and support propaganda of openly false narrative.
IDFI has a long history of working on promotion of transparency in the information ecosystem. IDFI is working towards exposing and debunking the effects of propaganda and disinformation that go against Georgia’s strategic goals regarding the integration with NATO and the EU. At the same time, IDFI works actively with the Parliament of Georgia and through various projects supports strengthening of the parliamentary democracy by increasing transparency and accountability of the legislative branch of Georgia.
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