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Georgia mourns the death of a journalist

A screenshot taken from Georgian TV channel Formula News from the protest outside the parliament building in Tbilisi on July 11 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAWtpRued1w

Known among his TV Pirveli colleagues as Lekso, journalist and cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava, 37, was found dead in his apartment on July 11 in Tbilisi. Lashkarava was among some 50 journalists who sustained injuries while covering the Tbilisi Pride March on July 5. Vato Tsereteli, the owner of TV Pirveli, blamed the government for Laskharava's death.

According to local media reports, he suffered broken facial bones and a concussion during the attack. He had to undergo surgery but was discharged from a hospital on Thursday, July 8. While local police said they have launched an investigation, the Ministry of the Interior was quick to dismiss any suspicions over the cause of death, suggesting during a July 11 press conference that the journalist may have died from a drug overdose. According to Radio Tavisupleba, the Georgian Service for Radio Free Europe, the police rushed the journalist's body for an autopsy despite the family's demands to involve an independent expert.  

Founder of a political movement Droa, Helen Khoshtaria said in a tweet, the preliminary statements by the Ministry of the Interior were beyond “shameful”:

On Sunday, July 11, thousands of Tbilisi residents gathered outside the parliament building in silent protest. At least 19 local civil society organizations signed a letter demanding Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri's resignation.

Following the violence on July 5, the PM blamed the organizers of the Tbilisi Pride March for the ongoing violence. Speaking at a government meeting, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said, it was “unreasonable” for the organizers to march in a public space which could trigger “civil confrontation” at a time when the majority of the population finds LGBTQ identities “unacceptable.”

In Batumi, another city in Georgia, protesters clashed with the police according to reporting by OC Media.

The response and reactions from international organizations were swift.

Around 70 Georgian media organizations, including Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), appealed to the international community saying, “despite the preliminary calls from the civil sector, the state has not taken appropriate measures to protect the media representatives. Insufficient police forces did not take measures to protect the journalists.”

According to OC Media, several media organizations, including the Shame Movement, whose office was also ransacked during July 5 Pride protests have vowed to renew their protests on Monday, July 12 unless their demands for resignations are met.

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