Laura Thornton, former resident director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Georgia, who served on this position since 2014, will now hold the position of Global Program Manager at International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in Stockholm. The process of selecting NDI’s new resident director in Georgia is underway.
A number of local media outlets, among them Obieqtivi TV affiliated with the Alliance of Patriots party and pro-government edition Marshalpress, as well as a xenophobic tabloid Alia, have provided manipulative coverage of Laura Thornton’s resignation. A campaign against Laura Thornton is also being carried out by a fake Facebook page “დეიდა ლორას კვლევები” (Aunt Laura’s Surveys), which was specially created on February 4 and has 262 likes and 5 admins.
The Alliance of Patriots party highlights the issue of Laura Thornton’s transition into a new job in a manipulative manner, portraying her new appointment as Global Project Director as the party’s achievement and noting that NDI’s resident director resigned largely due to their protests against the public opinion polls released by the organization. Obieqtivi TV that aired a special story on the same topic in its news program on March 2 has promoted the same opinion. The story is unbalanced and manipulative, covering only one-sided position of the Alliance of Patriots party.
Online media outlets Marshalpress and Alia released articles about Laura Thornton’s resignation with misleading headlines, reading “NDI’s resident director in Georgia, Laura Thornton has been dismissed”; however, the articles themselves have specified that NDI’s resident director in Georgia is replaced through the rotation principle.
The article by Marshalpress with a manipulative headline was later spread by Facebook page of Marshalpress, supporter of Alliance of Patriots, Nino Kvaratskhelia and Facebook page “ახალი ინფორმაცია” (New Information) in the following Facebook groups: “Georgia • საქართველო ✔️”, “ნაცხროვა ციხეში!!!”(Natsi herd in prison), „2012" ერთად ავიხდინოთ ქართული ოცნება !!!!!!!!” (Let’s Make Our Georgian Dream Come True), “პროტესტი! Protest! Протест!” and “საქართველო და მსოფლიო” (Georgia and World).
It is also worth noting that Giorgi Kasradze, member of the Alliance of Patriots, as well as party supporters are celebrating Laura Thornton’s resignation in the social network and congratulating party leader, Irma Inashvili on her Facebook page. Among them are Davit Okitashvili, head of the Georgian Chamber of Culture; and Malkhaz Gulashvili, founder of Georgian Times and head of People's Orthodox Christian Movement, who burst into Kavkasia TV in 2010.
About the fake page
The Facebook page “დეიდა ლორას კვლევები” (Aunt Laura’s Surveys), discrediting Laura Thornton, was created on February 4, 2020 and it spreads manipulative content about Thornton’s resignation as NDI’s resident director in Georgia. The page denounces NDI’s public opinion polls as falsified and spreads memes about Laura Thornton and opposition representatives.
The page “დეიდა ლორას კვლევები” (Aunt Laura’s Surveys) has liked an anti-opposition Facebook page ,,პოლიტიკოსები ერთი ლარიდან” (Politicians from one Lari) and has joined the group “პროპაგანდა არანორმალური პროპაგანდის წინააღმდეგ” (Propaganda against abnormal propaganda) with Bakur Svanidze, writer for Georgia and World, being its admin. Facebook users Laura Abramia and qeti otiashvili frequently share the posts published by the page in various groups.
NDI’s Georgia office opened in 1994. Ted Jonas was the first President, followed by Mark Mullen, Lincoln Mitchell, Mike Kelleher, Mary O'Hagan and Luis Navarro, each serving in Georgia for no longer than six years. Luis Navarro served as NDI’s resident director in 2009-2014, replaced by Laura Thornton.