Who paid 75 000 Euros for the placement of an advertisement in The International New York Times?
On October 16, 2014 The International New York Times published a letter from the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Davit Usupashvili entitled Saakashvili Prosecuted by His Own Past And Not Putin’s “Accomplice” Ivanishvili. The article consisted of statements supporting the position of the ruling coalition about the prosecution of the former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.
According to a local media outlet, Tabula, the article by the Speaker of the Parliament was published as an advertisement. However, this has not been confirmed by agenda.ge — an English language online publication that was ‘initiated by the Government of Georgia’. Agenda,ge’s contact information was provided below the ‘article’ in The International New York Times. According to the Minister of Finance Nodar Khaduri, no money has been transferred to the New York Times from the treasury. Davit Usupashvili confirmed that the article was written by him and given to agenda.ge; however, its publication in the New York Times came as a surprise to him. Usupashvili also clarified that he did not pay anything for the story to be published.
For this reason, we 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 has requested agenda.ge to correct the information they are providing, and clearly state that Usupashvili's letter is an advertisement. Agenda.ge had not corrected that information as requested at time of publication.
This is not the first case when Georgian politicians have placed advertisements in 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 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.
Considering that the ‘article’ was published based on an order from agenda.ge — a website with direct links to the government — there is a legitimate question of the possible misuse of administrative resources. Therefore, we have already sent FOI requests to the relevant Government offices and sought comment from agenda.ge, which are located at the same address.
It is important for the public to know who spent 75 000 Euros on this advertisement ordered by agenda.ge: the Government, a political party, an individual or legal person (company or organisation).