Cameraman dies after attack at anti-LGBT march in Georgia

12 July 2021, 09:51 | Updated: 12 July 2021, 10:48

Participants wear rainbow protective masks during an LGBTQ+ rally in Tbilisi
Participants wear rainbow protective masks during an LGBTQ+ rally in Tbilisi. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A cameraman has died after being attacked and beaten at an anti-Pride march in Georgia, eastern Europe.

The journalist's death sparked large protests outside the ex-Soviet nation's parliament on Sunday, with demonstrators demanding the resignation of the prime minister.

Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava was found dead in his home by his mother earlier in the day, according to TV Pirveli, the channel he worked for.

He was one of several dozen members of the media who were attacked by anti-LGBT demonstrators on Monday 5 July, when a Pride march was scheduled to take place in the capital.

Mr Lashkarava was discharged from hospital on Thursday but found dead a few days later. The cause of his death was not immediately clear.

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A woman holds up a placard during a rally in Tbilisi on Sunday
A woman holds up a placard during a rally in Tbilisi on Sunday. Picture: Getty
(File photo) Protests have erupted in Georgia after dozens of journalists were attacked at an anti-Pride march
(File photo) Protests have erupted in Georgia after dozens of journalists were attacked at an anti-Pride march. Picture: Alamy

Organisers of the Tbilisi March For Dignity cancelled last Monday's event, saying authorities had not provided adequate security guarantees.

Opponents of the demonstration blocked the city's main avenue and denounced journalists who were covering the march, branding them pro-LGBT propagandists.

Sticks and bottles were thrown at members of the media, while the cameraman was beaten by a mob of roughly 20 people, according to his colleague Miranda Baghaturia.

Images of Mr Lashkarava's bruised face were shown on local TV stations along with pictures of blood splattered on the floor around him. Reports said he sustained multiple injuries and needed surgery.

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Police launched an investigation into his death, which Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and President Salome Zurabishvili both described as "a tragedy".

Opposition to sexual minorities is strong in the conservative Black Sea nation of Georgia, with the Tbilisi Pride group saying on Monday that the anti-LGBT demonstrators were supported by the government and by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The Open Caucasus Media group published a photo of a man it said was a local TV journalist being pulled away from the scene in a headlock by an Orthodox priest.

President Zurabishvili condemned the violence, but Prime Minister Garibashvili alleged the march was organised by "radical opposition" forces that he claimed were spearheaded by exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

A large crowd of protesters that gathered in the capital on Sunday demanded that authorities punish those responsible for the attack on journalists and urged Mr Garibashvili to step down.

Some protesters blamed the prime minister for enabling the violence by publicly denouncing the LGBT march.