On May 16th, the Tbilisi City Court convicted Nika Gvaramia, General Director of the Mtavari Arkhi, of causing damage to Rustavi 2 and sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison. While Gvaramia’s arrest was harshly criticized by the media, and local and international NGOs, a campaign aimed to discredit Gvariamia and the journalists of the Mtavari Arkhi emerged on social media, which included pro-governmental, anti-opposition, anti-liberal Facebook pages and fake accounts. These actors criticized Gvaramia, his team and the “United National Movement” on the one hand, and considered the court decision as an expression of the rule of law, on the other. At the same time, posts and illustrations aimed to discredit Nika Gvaramia and other journalists of Mtavari Arkhi were published by the Georgian Dream-affiliated and anti-opposition Facebook pages. Notably, some of these posts were sponsored. To discredit Gvaramia, an altered photo from 2021 with a homophobic context, which the “Myth Detector” marked as false as part of the Facebook fact-checking program, was being disseminated once again.
“Myth Detector” identified 16 fake accounts and 16 Facebook pages involved in the discreditation campaign:
- Out of 16 Facebook pages, 4 are anti-liberal and pro-Kremlin (ანტილიბერალური გვერდი [Anti-Liberal Page], კონსერვატორი ქალები [Conservative Women], სარკრაზმელები [Sarcrazmelebi], ალტ-meme [Alt-meme]);
- Out of 16 Facebook pages, 12 are supportive of the “Georgian Dream” and are anti-opposition (პოლიტიკური სამარე [Political Grave], მიშინგი [Mishing], სიმართლის დროა [Time for Truth], პოლიტიკური აბსურდი [Political Absurd], ტერენტი გლდანელი [Terenti Gldaneli], ქართული ჟურნალისტიკის მარგალიტები/ journalist fails, რეალობა [Reality], მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი [Mikheil Ukrainologist], ჟუურნალისტები [Journalists], ნაცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო [The Official Agency for Mocking the UNM supporters], არქივი [Archive], ლიდერი 41[Leader 41]);
- 3 out of 16 Facebook pages are newly created. (პოლიტიკური სამარე [Political Grave], მიშინგი [Mishing], ალტ-meme [Alt-meme].
- Facebook posts against Nika Gvaramaia by three Facebook pages (ქართული ჟურნალისტიკის მარგალიტები/journalist fails, პოლიტიკური აბსურდი [Political Absurd], არქივი [Archive] are sponsored.
- 14 out of 16 fake accounts steal the identities of social networks users and/or other celebrities;
- 2 fake accounts conceal their identity;
- The fake accounts left comments on the news published by “Radio Liberty” and “Interpressnews,” and also published posts against Nika Gvaramia on their personal accounts;
- 6 fake accounts left comments on at least two posts;
- 4 out of 16 Facebook accounts are newly created;
- 8 out of 16 Facebook accounts approve of pro-government and anti-opposition Facebook pages;
- Fake accounts are among each other’s friends’ list;
- 8 Facebook accounts have been involved in pro-governmental and opposition campaigns in the past as well.
- Fake accounts expressed satisfaction with Gvaramia’s arrest and criticized the statement by the Polish Foreign Ministry stating that Gvaramia’s arrest would adversely affect both the rule of law and media freedom in Georgia.
Anti-liberal and pro-Kremlin Facebook pages, as well as (ანტილიბერალური გვერდი [Anti-liberal Page], კონსერვატორი ქალები [Conservative Women], სარკრაზმელები [sarkrazmelebi], Alt-meme, ირაკლი ჯანყარაშვილი / irakli jankarashvili), as well as anti-opposition Facebook pages პოლიტიკური სამარე [Political Grave], მიშინგი [Mishing], სიმართლის დროა [Time for Truth], პოლიტიკური აბსურდი [Political Absurd], ნაცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო [The Official Agency for Mocking the UNM supporters], არქივი [Archive] were involved in the discreditation campaign against Nika Gvaramia and had been disseminating satirical posts and insulting illustrations about the General Director of Mtavari Arkhi.
Natela Kiladze has also spent money on sponsoring the content of ‘Journalist fails’, where, as of May 20th, two posts about Gvaramia have been sponsored, including a list of salaries received by Nika Gvaramia from Rustavi 2 and information about the arrest of the director of Mtavari Arkhi.
Posts published on the Facebook page archive, which combine statements made by Nika Gvaramia at different times, are also sponsored.
Notably, the post about the salaries of Nika Gvaramia was also published by “Leader 41” – a Facebook page supportive of the incumbent Georgian Dream party.
Information about Gvaramia’s salaries was published by the Facebook user Varlam Gorgodze in the private Facebook group of the information agency Spacesnews. Notably, the URL link of Varlam Gorgodze’s account indicates the name ‘vaka.gorgiladze’ and together with “Konstantine Chikvialdze” manages the group.
The group split.spnews.io, which is a subdomain of spnews.io, also features the materials of the pro-Kremlin outlet “Newsfront.”
Discreditation of ‘Mtavari Arkhi’ Journalists
After the arrest of Nika Gvaramia, anti-liberal (Sarkrazmelebi, Conservative Women, Anti-Liberal Page) and anti-opposition Facebook pages (Mishing, Political Grave Mikheil Ukrainologist, Journalists) have been publishing posts in which, on the one hand, the journalist of the “Mtavari Arkhi” was ridiculed for being emotional, on the other hand, claiming that Gvaramia’s employees were not upset about his arrest. Also, after the arrest of Nika Gvaramia, humiliating illustrations and videos of Giorgi Gabunia and other journalists of Mtavari Arkhi have also been disseminated.
Newly created Facebook pages
The Facebook page “Political Grave” was created on April 30th, 2022 and was originally called “Political Sect”. The page mainly publishes posts against Mikheil Saakashvili, members of the “National Movement” and people connected with “Mtavari Arkhi.”
As for the page “Mishing,” it was created on May 11th, 2022 and mainly publishes discrediting posts against Mikheil Saakashvili and Nika Gvaramia.
The newly created anti-liberal Facebook page Alt-meme, created on April 2nd, 2022 is linked to pro-Kremlin Alt-info.
Photo manipulation with the aim to discredit Gvaramia
In order to discredit the director of “Mtavari Arkhi” Nika Gvaramia and Giorgi Gabunia, the anti-opposition Facebook page “Reality” and various Facebook accounts (Dito Chubinidze, Giga Patatishvili, Madona Dzidzishvili, Avtandil Chogovadze, Gurami Xafava) have been disseminating an altered image, in which Gvaramia and Gabunia kiss each other. In fact, the photo was fact-checked by “Myth Detector” in 2021, while the authentic version of the photo featured the journalist Anna Asatiani standing between Nika Gvaramia and Giorgi Gabunia.
- For more information on the topic, see the article: How did Journalist Ana Asatiani Disappear from the Shot of “Mtavari Arkhi?”
In the comments section of the posts of various media outlets, fake accounts expressed satisfaction with Gvaramia’s arrest and wrote that, as it turned out, the law had been enforced, and Gvaramia should have been arrested a long time ago. Fake accounts expressed dissatisfaction with the statement made by the Polish Foreign Ministry, which said that the arrest of Gvaramia would have a negative impact on both the perception of the rule of law and the freedom of the media.
|Fake account||Steals/Conceals the identity||Posts and Comments by them|
||Steals the identity of the Vkontakte.ru user Надежда Гусева.||The account wrote that the sect (National Movement) and its affiliates should be kept away from the government; She also expressed dissatisfaction with the statement of the Polish Foreign Ministry and argued that Gvaramia’s arrest had no political motive:|
|2. Iko Gigiberidze
||Steals the identity of the Instagram user vitja_86. The profile is newly created.||The account expressed satisfaction with Gvaramia’s arrest, and criticized the Polish Foreign Ministry for keeping silent when the UNM destroyed the country.:|
|3. Masho Manana Nebieridze
||Uses the pictures of the famous American model Kendall Jenner. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili.||Expressed satisfaction with Gvaramia’s arrest. The account also wrote that the goal of the critics of this decision was to provoke and agitate the people:|
|4. Olga Xhurcidze
||Steals the identity of Mary Jo Ramicone, an employee of Elmhurst University.||Wrote that the court judgement on Gvaramia’s case was fair.|
|5. Elene Tsitsishvili
||The photo used by the account can be found on numerous websites on the Internet.||The account wrote that Gvaramia deserved a harsher judgement.|
|6. Mari Loladze
||Uses a photo taken by a student of a photography course in Italy in June 2017. Shares posts discrediting the opposition and expresses support for Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.||Mari Loladze wrote that the lies of Gvaramia have flooded Georgia and he received the deserved punishment.|
|7. Tinatin Asanidze
||Steals the identity of an American publisher Beth Daugherty. Likes pages: POSTV – ახალი ამბები, POSTV – ახალი ამბები.
||Wrote that Mtavari Arkhi is not a critical channel, but a TV channel of provocateurs|
|8. Tamta Tsanava
||Steals the identity of a Sardinian guide, Marta Staffa. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili. Likes pages: Irakli, POSTV – Analytics, POSTV – News, Irakli Gharibashvili’s supporters, Misha’s Archive. Was involved in the discreditation campaign against the Ukrainian government.||The account wrote that, as it turned out, the law was enforced, and Nika Gvaramia ended up next to Saakashvili. The account published a post stating that Gvaramia could not stand fair decisions and that he even had a problem with the decision made by the Strasbourg court:|
|9. Zaza Svanadze
||Steals the identity of an Instagram user Дмитрий Деревнин. Publishes posts in support for Irakli Gharibashvili. Likes pages supportive of the GD party (Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili) and the anti-opposition page “Time for Truth.” The troll was involved in a discreditation campaign against Mikheil Saakashvili and the Government of Ukraine.
|The account wrote that Gvaramia “has done such things” that he should have been arrested sooner. Zaza Svanidze also published a post on his personal account, stating that Nika Gvaramia himself was a “victim” of the vicious system he created with Mikheil Saakashvili and that politics had nothing to do with his arrest:|
|10. Shota Rukhadze
||Steals the identity of an Italian winemaker Leonardo Zerilli. Likes pages: Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili, Irakli Gharibashvili’s supporters. Was involved in the discreditation campaign against the Ukrainian government.
|At the time of Nika Gvaramia’s arrest, the account wrote that the week had started well, while in other comments, he/she noted that the decision reflected the will of the people and welcomed the punishment of the perpetrator:|
|11. Nino Maisuradze
||Steals the identity of Екатерина Ткаченко. Shares the posts supportive of the Georgian government and PM Irakli Gharibashvili.||The Facebook account published a post on his/her personal profile, noting that Gvaramia had been “met” by a humane judge and that he had committed much more serious crimes while serving as the Prosecutor General.|
| 12. ნინი ამირეჯიბი
||Steals the identity of Vkonktakte user Ангелина Лебединская. Has 24 friends. Likes pages supportive of the “Georgian Dream.” The account was involved in the discreditation campaigns against Londa Toloraia and Nino Lomjaria, the election protest and the campaign against the Government of Ukraine.||Expressed dissatisfaction with the statement made by the Polish Foreign Ministry.|
|13. ია მაისურაძე
||Steals the identity of the Turkish doctor Gül Dağlar. Like Facebook pages: Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili. Shares posts of “Misha’s Archive” – a Facebook page created to discredit Saakashvili. The profile is newly-created. Was involved in the discreditation campaign against the Ukrainian government.
|The account wrote that Gvaramia was the mastermind behind the system created by Saakashvili, so he should have been punished more severely; Maisuradze also criticized the statement of the Polish Foreign Ministry and wrote that Gvaramia had a bad influence on the media standard:|
|14. Nini Lomjaria
||Steals the identity of an Italian composer and politician Aisha Ruggeri. Likes the pages Irakli, ბიძინა ივანიშვილის მხარდამჭერები/Bidzina Ivanishvili, Supporters of Irakli Gharibashvili. Shares posts in support of Irakli Gharibashvili and the Georgian government.||The account wrote that Gvaramia deserved more and everyone knew about it:|
|15. ვასო ჩხეიძე
||Conceals the identity. Has 53 friends. Left a comment on several posts.
|The account wrote that Gvaramia was sure he would not be caught, but he had committed a crime and should have been imprisoned long before:|
||Conceals the identity. Left a comment on several posts. Likes pages supportive of the Georgian Dream.
|Expressed joy over Gvaramia’s arrest, writing that the court ruling was fair; Criticized the position of the Polish Foreign Ministry and noted that the law should be the same for everyone: