Thousands rally in Georgia after death of TV cameraman

Alexander Lashkarava was one of dozens of journalists beaten up while covering attacks on LGBTQ activists last week.

Thousands protest in central Tbilisi, demanding justice for a journalist's death [Vano Shlamov/AFP]

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Georgia’s capital after a cameraman, one of dozens of journalists beaten during attacks on LGBTQ activists in Tbilisi this week, died.

LGBTQ campaigners in the South Caucasus country of Georgia called off a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in Tbilisi and targeted activists and journalists.

Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, 36, who was beaten up in the incident, was found dead at his home by his mother, TV Pirveli, the channel he worked for, said on Sunday. It did not disclose the cause of death.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament and the office of ruling party Georgian Dream on Sunday to call for the prime minister and interior minister to resign over the violence and Lashkarava’s death.

Lashkarava is seen after being beaten last week [TV Pirveli/Handout via Reuters]

Elene Khoshtaria, an opposition politician, splashed red paint on the door of a government building in protest.

Lashkarava’s death has outraged human rights activists in Georgia, who blame the authorities for emboldening hate groups and failing to keep journalists and LGBTQ supporters out of harm’s way.

The interior ministry said it was investigating Lashkarava’s death, but did not say what caused it.

Members of media attend a rally in memory of Lashkarava [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]

The ministry said later that Lashkarava’s “professional activities were illegally obstructed by threats of violence” during the attacks on LGBTQ supporters.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she had visited Lashkarava’s family.

“What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia,” she wrote. “It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished.”

More than 50 journalists were targeted in the violence, police said on Monday, prompting Western countries to call on Georgia to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

The planned pride march, which was called off before it began, had prompted criticism from the church and conservatives, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the march risked causing public confrontation.

More than 50 journalists were targeted in last week’s violence [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters]
Source: News Agencies