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Georgia cameraman dies after beating by far-right mob

TBILISI: Participants hold rainbow flags during a rally in support of those who were injured during the July 5 protests, when a pride march was disrupted by members of violent groups, in Tbilisi. Thousands rallied in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to denounce attacks targeting LGBTQ community and journalists that shocked the nation. – AFP

TBILISI: A Georgian TV cameraman has died after being badly beaten by far-right assailants during a protest against an LGBTQ Pride march, his station said yesterday, as pressure mounted on authorities over attacks on journalists. Alexander Lashkarava, a 37-year-old cameraman working for independent TV station Pirveli, was found dead in his bed in the early hours on Sunday, the channel reported. On Monday, he was assaulted by a violent mob of anti-LGBTQ protesters and sustained fractures to his facial bones.

More than 50 journalists were attacked that day by anti-LGBTQ groups protesting the planned Pride march, which was cancelled over safety fears. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the attacks, saying journalists “sustained injuries that included concussion, chemical burns and broken arms.” It accused authorities of “culpable passivity” and said police had failed to protect journalists. Georgia’s interior ministry said in a brief statement yesterday that an investigation had been opened into Lashkarava’s death. Rights activists announced a protest rally later Sunday to demand Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s resignation following the death.

Prominent Georgian TV personalities and managers have accused Garibashvili’s government of orchestrating a violent campaign against journalists. “The government not only encourages violence against journalists, it is part of the violence,” Nodar Meladze, TV Pirveli’s news editor, told AFP. “The government has set up violent groups to attack independent media,” he said adding that “riot police have also repeatedly targeted journalists.” In June 2019, riot police injured some 40 journalists covering an anti-government protest.

Garibashvili has faced strong criticism from the opposition and rights activists after he spoke out against holding the Pride march, describing it as “unacceptable for a large segment of Georgian society.” Critics have accused the ruling Georgian Dream of tacitly supporting homophobic and nationalist groups, who have also staged protests against pro-Western opposition parties. – AFP

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