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“Inaccurate Media reports Fuel Alarm in Gali,” UN Abkhaz Report

An almost daily flow of inaccurate Georgian media reports, sometimes coming from official Georgian sources, is fueling a widespread sense of uncertainty and alarm in the Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia, according to a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The report on the situation in the Abkhaz conflict zone, covering the period since the beginning of last October, was issued on January 25.
The report says that “disconnect between, on the one hand, realities on the ground and, on the other hand, media or official statements, is a matter of concern.”

”As it is, an “image of the enemy” is pervasive among communities on both sides of the ceasefire line,” the UN Secretary-General says in the report. “Fanning fears and hostility through misrepresentation will only entrench it further, and make harder the restoration of confidence that is a stated objective of the sides.”
According to the report, individual inaccurate media reports on developments in the conflict zone may have had little impact, “but cumulatively they have contributed to growing distrust and insecurity, ultimately increasing the chances of confrontation.”
In the past couple of months, Georgian TV stations have given wide coverage to many allegations made against the Abkhaz side.These include a declaration of a state of emergency in Gali; the increased deployment of Abkhaz forces; the closure of the ceasefire line at the time of the January 5 presidential election; the burning of seven houses in the villages of Otobaia, Nabakevi and Tagiloni by Abkhaz forces accompanied by Russian peacekeepers, who allegedly detained eight local Georgian residents; the wholesale detention of Gali residents by Abkhaz forces; the vandalization of road signs in the Georgian language and the burning of Georgian language books in schools by Abkhaz militiamen, with the assistance of Russian peacekeepers.

The Georgian media reported on election day, January 5, that ethnic Russian and Chechen peacekeepers in Ochamchire had had a shoot-out, resulting in six peacekeepers being wounded.
The Secretary-General’s report says that UN observers patrolling in the Gali district found that these media reports “proved mostly groundless.” “By and large, these patrols found that the information was sometimes baseless, sometimes only partially correct and, in some cases, misconstrued,” it said.

The latest Georgian media report of this kind claimed that over a dozen Russian peacekeepers had gone AWOL this week, after an alleged confrontation with ethnic Chechens serving alongside them in Abkhazia. On January 26, Rustavi 2 TV reported that the whereabouts of those gone AWOL was still undetermined.
The UN Secretary-General's report says that comments made by Abkhaz officials, to the effect that Gali residents intent on voting in Zugdidi should stay there, “had a deterrent effect on participation by Gali residents in the [January 5 presidential] election.”

It, however, also notes: “Paradoxically, they [ethnic Georgians in Gali] were also deterred by misinformation by the Georgian media that the ceasefire line would be closed around election time.”
Overall, the report notes, that although there had been no incident between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in the past few months, “reliable observers on both sides of the ceasefire line have commented that the relationship between the two sides was in 2007 at its lowest point since the large-scale violence of 1998.”

“The two electoral campaigns that took place in 2007, for the Georgian presidency and the de facto Abkhaz parliament, illustrated once again the deep rift between the political aspirations of the sides and their constituencies, with reunification and independence seen as top, non-negotiable priorities in Tbilisi and Sukhumi, respectively, and promoted with an equal sense of urgency,” the report reads.

Source: Media.ge

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