NAfter the death of a cameraman who was seriously injured during protests by anti-gay demonstrators, opposition MPs in Georgia have called for Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to resign. There were tumults in parliament in Tbilisi on Monday when several MPs occupied the chair of the parliamentary president. Critics accuse Garibashvili and his government of being partly responsible for the violence against media workers in the recent anti-LGTBQ protests in the Georgian capital.
The parliamentary session on Monday was only able to resume after the four female MPs who occupied the chair of the parliamentary president were forcibly removed from the room. In the evening there was another protest against Garibashvili: around 2,000 people gathered in front of the parliament building, including hundreds of journalists and human rights activists. They announced that the demonstrations would continue until Garibashvili resigns.
50 journalists attacked
Around 8,000 people demonstrated against the government in Tbilisi on Sunday. They expressed their dismay at the death of 37-year-old cameraman Alexander Laschkarawa, who had been beaten by anti-gay demonstrators last week. Laschkarawa was found dead in his apartment on Sunday morning. The cameraman had worked for the independent TV Pirweli. In total, more than 50 journalists were physically attacked in the anti-gay protest.
The reason for the anti-gay demonstration was an ultimately canceled Pride parade for more LGTBQ rights. Garibashvili had spoken out against holding the march. After Laschkarawa’s death, the Prime Minister spoke of an “unbelievable tragedy” and promised an immediate investigation into the circumstances of his death.
On Monday evening, the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi said that an “excessive dose of drugs” may have been the trigger for Laschkarawa’s death. This is the preliminary result of a forensic investigation.
“Turning point for freedom of information”
The organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused the Georgian authorities of “culpable passivity” in protecting journalists. “The suspicious death of Alexander Laschkarawa marks a catastrophic turning point for freedom of information in Georgia,” said the RSF representative for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Jeanne Cavalier.
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The US ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, also clearly criticized Garibashvili’s government. It was “disappointing” that the government did not play a “stronger” role in preventing violence against journalists, said the diplomat.