(Eurasianet) Georgia’s international standing has long benefited from being sandwiched between authoritarian countries, thus making it look good on the regional freedom charts. But its eagerness to stay on good terms with authoritarian-minded neighbors like Azerbaijan and Turkey appears to be having a negative impact on Tbilisi’s rights record.
In its increasingly aggressive campaign against critical journalists, the Azerbaijani government appears to have arranged for the brazen kidnapping of investigative reporter Afgan Mukhtarli from downtown Tbilisi and his forced delivery to Azerbaijan to face trial. The incident has outraged many Georgians, who view it as a crude violation of sovereignty and a spineless reaction, if not craven connivance, on the part of their government.
“This is unbelievable. If someone from our side is involved, they should go to prison,” said media analyst and publisher Lasha Tugushi at a protest rally on May 31, the day after Mukhtarli’s kidnapping. […]
“Georgia finds itself in a very delicate situation,” said Kornely Kakachia, political science professor at Tbilisi State University. “Tbilisi needs to strike a precarious balance between maintaining strategic partnerships with its neighbors and demanding respect for its own statehood, image and policies.”
“Georgia has not asserted its position in the region properly,” Kakachia said. “It is harder in Turkey’s case, but these regional partnerships run both ways and Azerbaijan also needs Georgia’s support. By dint of careful, but principled diplomacy, Tbilisi has to make it clear to its neighbors that there are red lines.”
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