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Diplomacy in the media: the awkward case of Georgia

Published on 22 March 2010
Updated on 05 April 2024

The involvement of the media in Public Diplomacy may take different shapes. One of them is known as diplomacy in the media. It happens when a State uses mass media channels to establish communication with other State as a way to move forward negotiations or gather support for agreements. It differs from regular public diplomacy strategies, because the aim of diplomacy in the media is not to subtly support the view of the world or the propaganda given State, but to directly send a message to the other party.

A classic example of diplomacy in the media was the ultimatum given by former president of the United States, George W Bush, to Saddam Hussein in 2003…

He did not use an ambassador or any formal document to warn Iraqi’s leader that he should resign and leave Iraq in 48 hours; he used a worldwide television network to send his message, with millions of viewers being witnesses.

Last week an awkward way of using the media for diplomacy was put in place by Imedi, a Georgian TV Station controlled by the government and owned by the former Ministry of Economics. This time, TV was used not frighten the population of a third country, but to spread fear among the Georgians. The station broadcasted a video purporting to show Russian tank units preparing to invade. Imedi also showed images of a concerned US President Barack Obama and a war-hungry Dmitry Medvedev.

On the next day, Georgian president Saakashvili affirmed that what the TV did was unfortunate, but they showed a realistic simulation of what could actually happen in the coming months. The Imedi report, he claimed, “was very close to what Georgia’s enemies were up to.”

The strategy of using a foreign enemy to generate fear and consequently to foster social cohesion around the national government is not new. Fidel Castro uses it in Cuba for many years and George W. Bush used this strategy to gather support after September 11th. But the Georgians seem to have miscalculated their maneuver, in a moment when the government seems to be losing support from the White House, a fundamental ally for the Georgians to be able to stand up against Russian interests in the region.

Interestingly enough,Saakashvili is also negotiating financial support to a Hollywood movie, stared by Andy Garcia and Val Kilmer, that will supposedly “tell the Georgian side of the story” of the long dispute with the Russians. Maybe the president will have more luck on the big screen.

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