Georgia: violent attacks against journalists during Pride march in Tbilisi
More than 50 journalists were physically attacked and injured yesterday on 5 July by far-right protesters as they reported on Pride events in Tbilisi. The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate in Georgia, the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), in condemning the violent attacks against the press and the LGBTQI+ community, and call on the authorities to ensure those responsible are quickly identified and prosecuted.
Anti-LGBTQI+ protesters disrupted the “March for Dignity” during the 2021 Tbilisi Pride and attacked activists and media representatives. Journalists covering the event were harassed, beaten and their equipment was stolen and damaged. Among the journalists injured were Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Tornike Mandaria, Tabula news journalist Mako Jabua and camera operator of the Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) Ilia Tvaliashvili, currently in hospital receiving treatment. Journalists from TV Pirveli, Formula TV, Rustavi2tv, TV Imedi, Interpressnews and others were also targeted. The Interior Ministry said it has launched investigations into cases of interference with journalist’s professional activities and the violence.
Prior to the march, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said it was “not reasonable” to organise such an event which could lead to public confrontation. The Pride march was later cancelled by LGBTQI+ activists before the event started.
According to Zviad Pochkhua, President of the IAGJ, the police has not provided adequate protection to media workers: “There was reason to fear that the situation would escalate as public calls for violence had been made, including from the Georgian Orthodox Church and the far-right. By ignoring the attacks on the media and not investigating them, the police is encouraging them”.
“There is a lack of international pressure on Georgian authorities which allows authorities to close their eyes to the worsening media environment. International organisations must have a stronger reaction to this”, Zviad Pochkua said.
EFJ director Renate Schroeder said: “Journalists’ safety must also be a priority in Georgia, not least to guarantee the public’s right to know. Together with our affiliate and many International press freedom groups we call on the Georgian authorities to thoroughly investigate these attacks and bring swift justice to those involved. We stand in solidarity with anyone who has suffered violence yesterday, the journalists and the LGBTQI+ community.”