A Georgian TV cameraman who was among dozens of journalists attacked and beaten by far-right assailants during an anti-LGBTQ protest at Tbilisi Pride on July 5 has died.
Thirty seven year old Lesko Lashkarava sustained severe facial injuries, but was discharged from the hospital. According to Pirveli, the independent TV station he worked for, his body was found at his Tbilisi home by his mother on July 11.
This is how @TbilisiPride office looks like inside after the radicals storm it. @usingeo @EUinGeorgia @UNDPGeorgia @LGBTIintergroup @SandAndresen @ColasDiego @MaaikevanKoldam pic.twitter.com/oYZIDDx9Ep
— Tamaz Sozashvili (@TamazSozashvili) July 5, 2021
Georgian police have launched a criminal investigation into Lashkarava’s death and the Interior Ministry stated that four people have been arrested.
Lashkarava was one of nearly 60 journalists and other media workers who were attacked when hundreds of people took to the streets to block a planned LGBTQ Pride parade. The chaos, which included mobs scaling the building where the organizers of the Tbilisi Pride parade have their headquarters, drew criticism from press advocates and foreign governments.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the attacks saying, “journalists sustained injuries that included concussions, chemical burns, and broken arms.” They also accused authorities of “culpable passivity” and said police had failed to protect journalists.
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) July 5, 2021
Although discrimination against sexual orientation is illegal in Georgia, the country, which lies between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, still remains very much conservative. The Georgian Orthodox Church, which strongly opposes LGBTQ activists, called for a public prayer meeting against the Pride festivities.
Some videos even show priests joining the unruly protests and chanting outside parliament after the event was canceled.
Although Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili made a statement describing Lashkarava’s death as an “unimaginable tragedy,” many are pointing blame and calling for him to resign. Allegedly, on the morning of the scheduled Pride parade, he said it was inappropriate to hold the event and argued that it would create confrontation. That LGBTQ Pride was “unacceptable for a large segment of Georgian society.”
Garibashvili and his government are being accused of orchestrating a violent campaign against journalists by people in the media industry.
Thousands of people rallied in Tbilisi the day after the mob attack to denounce the violence. That event was largely people, however, right-wing activists later held their own event in front of parliament, where they tore down a European Union flag and burned it.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time anti-LGBTQ violence has happened in Tbilisi. In 2019, far-right protestors joined demonstrations against the premiere of Georgia’s first LGBTQ film.