Camera Operator Dies Following Violent Attacks on Tbilisi Pride
PEN demands investigation into death of camera operator Lekso Lashkarava
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — PEN America condemned the tragic death of Georgian journalist and camera operator Lekso Lashkarava, attacked by a mob demonstrating against the Tbilisi Pride parade on July 5. Over 50 media workers were attacked by the mob, including journalists from Georgian media outlets and two journalists from RFE/RL.
“Last week’s attacks on the Pride parade and on the journalists covering it were a grave violation of Georgians’ right to gather peacefully and to exercise their freedom of expression and opinion,” said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia program director. “Furthermore, the attacks on members of the press raise serious questions about whether sufficient measures are being taken to protect the safety of journalists in Georgia. The tragic death of Lekso Lashkarava should serve as a wake-up call that Georgian authorities must be proactive in ensuring the safety of journalists doing their work.”
While the Georgian Interior Ministry said it is investigating both Lashkarava’s death and the attacks, many of those affected by the violence have called for extensive investigations and accountability for those responsible for the attacks. A joint statement issued by the diplomatic missions of the U.S and EU along with 16 foreign embassies criticizes the “failure of the government leaders and religious officials to condemn this violence.”
In a statement issued following the attacks, Tbilisi Pride accused the Georgian government of inactivity, stating that “the government isn’t performing its direct duty” and that “the Ministry of Internal Affairs, despite having all opportunities to ensure the safety of Pride Week participants, did not take any action to protect the fundamental rights of people.” The statement went on to criticize the role that the Georgian Orthodox Church played in inviting its supporters to protest against the Pride parade, with some priests joining the protests and chanting in front of the parliament building after the parade was cancelled.