13 July 2021
13 July 2021
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECMPF) is saddened by the death of Georgian TV camera operator Alexandr Lashkarava. Last week, far-right assailants severely beat him while he was covering attacks on LGBTQI+ activists in Tbilisi. A few days later, on 10 July, he was found dead at his home by his mother. We are dismayed by the lack of police protection for the participants in the planned Pride event and the journalists and media workers who covered it. The inciting and dismissive statements by Prime Minister Garibashvili, who on 12 July lashed out at the LGBTQI+ activists who had planned a Pride event, are wholly unacceptable. We urge the Georgian government to abide by their obligations under international human rights law and standards and protect protesters and the safety of journalists and media workers. We call on the Prosecutor’s office of Georgia to swiftly establish whether the injuries he sustained on 5 July caused the death of Alexandr Lashkarava. Any links with his profession should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for his death must be held accountable.
On the 5th of July, anti-LGBTQI+ groups protesting against the planned Pride march in Tbilisi, Georgia, violently invaded the organisers’ offices. Due to safety reasons, the rally was cancelled later that day. Alexandr Lashkarava was one of the more than fifty journalists and media workers physically attacked by the anti-LGBTQI+ groups while carrying out their journalistic work at the event. Later on, the journalists reported to the RFE/RL that there were not enough police enforcements specifically mobilised to protect media workers against aggressors.
As a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Georgia must protect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the Convention. Interference in journalistic activities either by State or non-State actors constitutes a threat to a democratic society characterised by pluralism and broadmindedness, in which there is a place for robust public debate and to impart and receive information freely. As set out in the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists and Other Media Actors (CM/Rec(2016)4), State authorities must establish adequate preventative mechanisms for foreseeable immediate risks to journalists’ life and physical integrity. States must take the specific nature of journalistic work into account at a public demonstration and provide effective safeguards. Everyone involved in killings, attacks on, and ill-treatment of journalists and other media actors must be brought to justice. In this regard, States must provide independent, impartial, and prompt remedies to punish those responsible.
We urge the Georgian government to take all necessary steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the death of Alexandr Lashkarava, ensure that the right to protest is realised and that journalists’ and media workers’ safety is guaranteed, in line with its obligations under international human rights law and standards. The ECPMF stands in solidarity with Mr Lashkarava’s family and friends, his colleagues and the activists who suffered violence during the cancelled Pride event and the citizens of Georgia who have taken to the streets since then to protest the failures of the authorities in this regard.