Usupashvili’s letter creates scandal
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, October 23A letter that was written by Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili published in the International New York Times created a scandal within Georgia.
The New York Times published Georgian Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili’s letter with the title ‘’Saakashvili Prosecuted by His Own Past and Not Putin’s ‘Accomplice Ivanishvili’’. In the letter, Usupashvili speaks about Georgia’s previous leadership, the cases of former officials, on the founder of the Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili and other state-related topics.
According to Usupashvili, the concerns raised by Georgia’s friends and partners with regard to the former president’s indictment reflect that Georgia’s allies are not neglectful of the ongoing developments in the country.
“I take their position as support for Georgia and a desire to see Georgia emerge as a developed and effective democracy. I understand the reaction of former President Saakashvili’s political friends. It is hard to see your one-time political ally ruined and charged with a crime,” Usupashvili says.
When it comes to Ivanishvili, Usupashvili states that it is an offense to him when there are people in Georgia who call Ivanishvili a spy of some other country. According to him, debating whether or not Ivanishvili has been consciously, methodically, and consistently pursuing Russia’s interests or striving to ensure Georgia’s return to Russia’s orbit is immature and embarrassing.
Member of the UNM Davit Darchiashvili stressed that the parliament chair has become a defender of “oligarch Ivanishvili.” Tabula magazine spread information that the letter was published as an advertisement. The news was not confirmed by the news agency “established by the government” Agenda.ge, which firstly published the letter. Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri also denied speculation that the state budget paid for the letter.
Transparency International Georgia gave new life to the issue. The organization states that they addressed the International New York Times and discovered that agenda.ge commissioned the Paris office of the International New York Times to publish the ‘article’ in the World News section. A full-page advertisement in the World News section costs approximately 75, 000 Euros according to their rate card. The newspaper representative confirmed that the letter by Usupashvili was published on the whole page.
According to the International New York Times, the newspaper requested that agenda.ge correct the information they provided, and clearly state that Usupashvili's letter is an advertisement.
“Agenda.ge had not corrected the information as requested at the time of publication,” the NGO statement reads, stressing that this is not the first case when Georgian politicians have placed advertisements in the international media and attempted to portray these advertisements as articles.
“In 2011, we responded to the claim made by the former President of Georgia that the Financial Times ranked Georgia as the number one country fighting against corruption. Our research shows that this piece was also an advertisement placed by the previous government. It is important for the public to know who spent 75, 000 Euros on this advertisement,” the NGO reports.
The government is unanimous that the budget money was not spent on the piece. It is vivid that changing the version will put the Georgian Dream government in a very awkward situation, as for years the new government members have been accusing the previous government of spending much money on foreign lobbyists and advertising articles in famous publications. There is much probability that Usupashvili’s letter was an advertisement, but it remains unclear who paid for it- the state budget or some other source.