September 27, 2021

Thousands of Georgians demonstrate against government after journalist dies

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Thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday (July 11) in Georgia to demand the resignation of the government after the death of a journalist, beaten earlier in the week by far-right activists on the sidelines of protests against the LGBTQ community.

Alexandre Lachkarava, 37, was found dead in his bed on Sunday, according to the Pirveli TV channel for which he worked. He was severely beaten on Monday on the sidelines of protests against the holding of an LGBTQ march and suffered from multiple fractures to his face.

More than 50 journalists were attacked on the same day, when the march initially planned in the streets of the capital Tbilisi was finally canceled, for fear for the safety of the participants.

According to an AFP journalist, around 8,000 people gathered at 8 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) in front of Parliament on Sunday, at the call of human rights organizations.

‘We call for the immediate resignation of Irakli Garibashvili and his government who are spearheading violence against journalists,’ Nika Melia, leader of the country’s main opposition force, the Movement, told AFP. united national (MNU).

Giorgi Svanidze, a 43-year-old doctor, told him that the ruling Georgian Dream party ‘cultivates the climate of hatred in this country against journalists, rights activists, opponents’. ‘The government must go,’ he added.

Brussels and Washington outraged by the violence

The European Union and the United States condemned these attacks and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. ‘Let me reiterate the EU’s strong condemnation of all violence and our firm and unwavering support for freedom of the press and of assembly,’ EU Ambassador to Georgia Karl Hertzel said on Sunday in a statement. press release in which he also presents his condolences for the death of Alexandre Lachkarava.

‘The safety of every Georgian journalist and the credibility of democracy in Georgia demand that every individual who has attacked peaceful citizens and journalists (…) be identified, arrested and prosecuted,’ for its part said the Embassy of Georgia. United States.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the attacks, adding that journalists ‘suffered injuries including concussions, chemical burns and broken arms’.

The NGO accused the authorities of ‘passive guilt’ and considered that the police had failed in their duty to protect journalists.

The Georgian Interior Ministry assured Sunday in a statement that an investigation had been opened to determine the causes of the death of Alexander Lachkarava.

Georgian government accused of targeting journalists

Several personalities and leaders of the world of television have accused the government of Irakli Garibashvili of orchestrating a violent campaign against journalists.

‘The government does not stop at encouraging violence against journalists, it is part of this violence,’ Pirveli editor-in-chief Nodar Meladze told AFP.

‘The government has set up violent groups that attack independent media,’ he said, adding that ‘riot police regularly target the press.’

In June 2019, riot police injured around 40 journalists covering an anti-government protest.

The Georgian Prime Minister is the target of fierce criticism from both the opposition and human rights activists after taking a stand against the holding of the LGBTQ march, deeming it ‘unacceptable to a large part of the society’.

They blame the ruling Georgian Dream party for tacitly supporting nationalist and homophobic groups which have also organized several demonstrations targeting pro-Western opposition parties.