Scuffles have broken out in Georgia’s parliament over demands for the prime minister’s resignation due to the death of a cameraman who was attacked while covering an anti-pride event.
Lekso Lashkarava suffered severe facial injuries during the attack in Tbilisi on 5 July but was discharged from hospital. He was found dead on Sunday. Protesters have demanded the resignation of Irakli Garibashvili.
They accuse the prime minister of allowing violence against the media. Fighting broke out when opposition members brought in the director of a TV station who wanted to know why police had failed to stop far right militants attacking Lashkarava.
Journalists and opposition politicians attempted to enter the building to speak to pro-government lawmakers, but most of them were turned away by security. Some managed to break the barrier, and people could be seen scuffling on the floor of parliament.
The session resumed after four MPs who had occupied the speaker’s chair were marched out. Another protest took place outside the parliament on Monday evening.
Prime Minister Gharibashvili has described Lashkarava’s death as an “unimaginable tragedy”. But he, along with his government, has been accused by people in the media industry of orchestrating a violent campaign against journalists.
On Monday, he called the opposition politicians’ actions “yet another failed conspiracy against the state, masterminded by anti-state and anti-church forces”.
Lashkarava was attacked by anti-LGBT protesters who were demonstrating against the planned Pride events. He was one of more than 50 journalists attacked on that day. Lashkarava’s editor at TV Pirveli said the cameraman had complained of severe pain when he saw him on Friday.
An official cause of death has not been announced. Police say 20 people have been arrested for violence against journalists, including five for physical and verbal abuse against TV Pirveli’s camera crew.
Reporters Without Borders have accused authorities of “culpable passivity” and said police had failed to protect reporters.
Georgia’s interior ministry had previously called on the organisers to cancel the Pride march due to safety concerns while Mr Gharibashvili described the event as “unacceptable for a large segment of the Georgian society”.
On Monday, the ministry said that a drug overdose could have cause of Lashkarava’s death, based on the preliminary conclusion of a forensic investigation.