The Wall Street Journal‘s European edition does its best to whitewash Saakashvili’s record as he leaves office:
As a charismatic leader of a nation with shallow democratic traditions, Mr. Saakashvili could be heavy-handed. He overreacted to antigovernment protests in 2007, shutting down a national television channel. He survived a war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in 2008, but the fight probably cost Georgia any chance of reclaiming two breakaway regions.
That is the extent of the criticism of Saakashvili’s record in the editorial. Notably absent from the description of Saakashvili’s “overreaction” was the way that the protesters were treated. A report on the 2007 crackdown from Der Spiegel gives a more complete picture of what happened:
On Wednesday the protests descended into violent clashes, as police began to push demonstrators back and to beat some with truncheons. The riot police then fired tear gas at the demonstrators from pickup trucks as they retreated down the capital’s main avenue. More than 500 people were injured, with 100 still in hospital on Thursday, according to the Georgian Health Ministry. The Imedi television station, which had carried statements by opposition leaders and broadcast footage of the police’s heavy-handed tactics, was taken off the air Wednesday night after riot police entered its headquarters.
The editorial fails to mention the more routine abuses of power by Saakashvili and his ministers, the harassment of critical journalists, neglects the torture of prisoners, and conveniently omits the fact that Saakashvili bore a large part of the blame for the August 2008 war. None of this is surprising. The WSJ has been one of the worst outlets for pushing pro-Saakashvili propaganda, and even though he will no longer be in office they are still cheerleading for him.