More than 50 journalists were recently attacked while covering an anti-Pride event in Tbilisi, Georgia. The rioters reportedly attacked them with acid and beat them, and one of the journalists was later found dead.
The incident occurred on Monday, 5 July. Far-right assailants protested against an LGBTQ Pride that was supposed to take place in the Georgian capital. The march quickly got violent, and the homophobic mob attacked 53 journalists who were covering the event.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the journalists sustained “injuries that included concussion, chemical burns and broken arms.” The same source writes that at least five of the reporters were hospitalized with serious injuries.
One of the hospitalized people was Lekso Lashkarava, a cameraman for Georgian opposition station Pirveli TV. He had suffered facial fractures and a concussion in the attack and underwent emergency surgery immediately after it. RSF writes that he was discharged on Thursday, 8 July for home treatment. His editor said that Lashkarava had complained of severe pain when he came to work on Friday. And on Sunday 11 July, his mother found him dead in his bed.
Jeanne Cavalier, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk said:
“After the coordinated attack on more than 50 journalists, the suspicious death of Aleksandr Lashkarava marks a disastrous turning point for the freedom to inform in Georgia. Instead of trying to discredit the late cameraman, we demand that the Interior Ministry launch an in-depth, impartial and transparent investigation of the circumstances of his death and of the attacks suffered by journalists whom the police failed to protect.”
“While discrimination against sexual orientation is illegal in Georgia,” the BBC writes “the country remains very conservative.” Even the Georgian Orthodox Church reportedly got involved and called for a public prayer meeting against the Pride event!
I was trying to stay neutral, but this has hit home. I live in Serbia and all this sounds way too familiar. Similar things have happened here as well and it makes me sad and angry on different levels. First, being a LGBTQ+ is difficult in this country. I deeply sympathize with these people who get threatened, beaten, and even killed just because they want their rights. Second, it makes me mad that journalists, photographers and camera crew suffer the same consequences just because they’re doing their jobs. And don’t even get me started about the involvement of the church!
All in all, according to the BBC, Georgian police have launched a criminal investigation into Lashkarava’s death. The Health Ministry has “launched an investigation of the adequacy of medical services at the clinic where he was treated,” RSF reports. And I can only hope that whoever is responsible will be prosecuted.
[via the BBC]