On June 23, TV Rustavi 2 disseminated information about a conspiracy meeting in Washington between Giorgi Gakharia, former prime minister of Georgia, the current leader of the party "For Georgia", and Mikheil Saakashvili, leader of “National Movement” and former president, which was substantiated by the fact that the former president and prime minister had stayed in the same hotel "Mayflower"
Rustavi 2’s exclusive was soon spread by media outlets with pro-government editorial policy (POSTV, Imedi, and others), as well as Facebook accounts (Shameless People, Terengi Gldaneli) discrediting opposition, pages acting in the name of media and election pages (Informative blog, elections 2021), which act as platforms neutral to ruling party.
5 pages (Imedi, POSTV, Elections 2021, Informative Blog, Shameless People) out of 12 that disseminated the information sponsored the posts about the Gakharia-Saakashvilli meeting:
Claim on the Gakharia-Saakashvili meeting was based on the notion that both stayed at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington. No media outlet published footage depicting the meeting. Members of the ruling party assessed this meeting as evidence of their suspicions.
Gakharia’s team members responded to the discrediting campaign, started by the pro-government media outlets, via their official Facebook pages and media outlets and denied the fact. Moreover, Gakharia-associated accounts took part in the responding campaign.
After the dissemination of the information, Facebook user Mariam Mar spread the edited photo in one of the Giorgi Gakharia-supporting groups “Supporters of Giorgi Gakharia”. The aforesaid photo depicted Giorgi Gakharia and Kakhaber Kemoklidze together with Mikheil Saakashvili in Washington. In reality, the third person in the photo is Gakharia’s political advisor Levan Dolidze, whose head was replaced by Mikheil Saakashvili via photoshop.
Mariam Mar attached text to the aforesaid fabricated photo stating that it is disseminated by “rotten GD and NM supporters”.
In reality, this photo cannot be found in pro-government or opposition pages and groups nor does the author of the post indicate those pages or accounts that disseminated the photoshopped image. Mariam Mar published the aforesaid photo at 20:24, June 23, the same user spread the real photo together with a comment from Kakhabeer Kemoklidze at 20:56.
The fabricated photo and the text attached triggered a strong outcry in the group supporting Gakharia. Various users expressed their protests towards political opponents disseminating the fabricated photo, and in each case, Mariam Mar uploaded the real photo in the comment section.
Soon after Mariam Mar published the fabricated photo in the group supporting Gakharia, the latter’s official Facebook page published satire of the aforesaid photo at 22:06 with the inscription: “No to Framing!”. The photo featured Bidzina Ivanishvili instead of Kakhaber Kemoklidze, while Mikheil Saakashvili was still in place of Levan Dolidze.
Photo triggered strong outcry on a social network, a different user would publish different versions of the edited photo, some still featured Mikheil Saakashvili and Giorgi Gakharia, while some replaced Levan Dolidze with Joe Biden.
Who is Mariami Mar?
According to Facebook, Mariami Mar’s account is a new Facebook account, which published the first photo on June 4, 2021.
The account became a member of the public group “Supporters of Giorgi Gakharia” on June 16.
The following day she published a post on her profile supporting Gakharia and as for the group, she actively shares various posts in support of Gakharia.
Meme campaign on Nika Melia’s post
Nika Melia responded to the meme campaign and uploaded a photo with an inscription “Waiting for Gakharia” on his profile:
Pro-government Facebook pages that focus on discrediting opposition responded to Melia’s photo in a coordinated manner and dedicated numerous memes to Melia’s aforesaid photo.
By Mariam Dangadze