Attacks on 53 journalists is a major setback for press freedom in Georgia, RSF says
Far-right activists physically attacked more than 50 journalists covering the counter-demonstrations against a Pride march in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, on 5 July, while police failed to intervene. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the culpable passivity displayed by the authorities and calls for all those responsible for these illegal acts to be punished.
A total of 53 journalists were attacked while covering the counter-demonstrations against the march planned by LGBTQ+ activists and supporters, sustaining injuries that included concussion, chemical burns and broken arms. At least five were hospitalised with serious injuries.
Ilya Tvaliashvili, a cameraman with public TV channel GPB, sustained burns to his eyes when a chemical product was thrown in his face. Mako Jabua, reporter for the online media outlet Tabula, received several blows to his head with a stick. Giorgi Nikolishvili, a photo-journalist with the Interpressnews agency, suffered concussion after being hit twice on the head while taking photos of the event.
Journalistic equipment was also targeted. Cameras, microphones and smartphones were snatched and smashed. Members of TV crews from the PalitraNews agency, TV Pirveli and Mtavari Arkhi TV either fled from the demonstration or concealed their press accreditation to avoid being attacked.
Many of the journalists highlighted the lack of any response from the police and the impunity enjoyed by their assailants. TV Pirveli reporter Giorgi Maisuradze said police watched without intervening while his crew’s cameraman, Levan Bregvadze, was beaten.
“The brutal attacks against journalists in Tbilisi represent a major setback for press freedom in Georgia,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The intensity and coordination of the violence were unprecedented. Journalists must be able to freely cover any demonstration, and the police have a duty to protect them while they are doing their job. Disturbed by this dangerous precedent and by the passivity shown by the Georgian authorities, we remind them of their international obligations and we urge them to prosecute all those responsible for acts of violence against news professionals.”
Yesterday, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili belatedly condemned this violence against journalists, calling it “categorically unacceptable.” The holding of the Pride march was much criticised by some segments of Georgian society, including religious groups. So far only seven people have been arrested.
A TV Pirveli crew was roughed up in the village of Tsintskaro last week. Their assailant should have been placed in pre-trial detention but was released on bail.
Georgia is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.