Words: Alastair James; picture: Twitter
A cameraman in Georgia has died after sustaining injuries during a protest against an LGBTQ Pride parade in the capital, Tbilisi, last week, leading to protests.
Alexander Lashkarava, 37, worked for the independent station TV Pirveli. The station says he was found dead in his bed on Sunday morning.
Last Monday (5 July 2021) far-right protestors attacked the headquarters of Pride organisers, with activists and journalists also being attacked.
“A major setback for press freedom in Georgia”
Lashkarava was one of the journalists who had been attacked by the far-right protestors while covering the event. He was left with severe injuries to his face, and according to the BBC, complained to his boss on Friday (9 July) he was suffering from severe pain.
Reuters reports that he was found dead at his home by his mother on Sunday. The Interior Ministry in Georgia has said it is investigating and that four people have been arrested (as per the BBC)
Some reports suggest that the cause of death is thought to be drug-related, but that has yet to be confirmed.
The International Federation of Journalists described Lashkarava's death as "sad news".
Reporters without Borders (RSF) said 53 journalists had been attacked last week with people sustaining injuries such as “concussion, chemical burns, and broken arms.” They also say five people have been hospitalised. Other journalists had equipment stolen or damaged.
Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk says: “The brutal attacks against journalists in Tbilisi represent a major setback for press freedom in Georgia.
“The intensity and coordination of the violence were unprecedented. Journalists must be able to freely cover any demonstration, and the police have a duty to protect them while they are doing their job.
“Disturbed by this dangerous precedent and by the passivity shown by the Georgian authorities, we remind them of their international obligations and we urge them to prosecute all those responsible for acts of violence against news professionals.”
"It must be investigated"
Georgia’s President, Salome Zourabichvili, posted on Twitter saying she’d visited Lashkarava’s family. She added: “What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia. It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished.”
I visited the family of Lekso Lashkarava. What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia.— Salome Zourabichvili (@Zourabichvili_S) July 11, 2021
It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished. pic.twitter.com/jbDYo5kVeZ
Lashkarava’s death has led to protests in Georgia. Hundreds gathered outside the offices of the ruling party, Georgian Dream, demanding the resignation of Zourabichvili and the Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, according to Reuters.
After the attacks last week Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said the Georgian government has failed to protect journalists. He said: “Instead of planning for this turn of events and providing a robust response to violence, the government deployed inadequately small numbers of policemen who were only reacting to violent attacks, rather than providing an organized protection for LGBTI activists."
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