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Attacks on journalists in Tbilisi as city braces for Pride

5 July 2021
First Channel’s Camera person Ilia Tvalishvili carried away by police on Rustaveli Avenue. Image: Publika.

Earlier today, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili expressed his opposition to the Pride march scheduled to be held in central Tbilisi. Meanwhile, anti-queer counter-demonstrators attacked journalists and smashed their equipment.  

The counter-demonstrators, who hit the streets to oppose the March of Dignity organised by Georgian queer rights group Tbilisi Pride, have attacked several journalists and smashed their equipment in central Tbilisi. 

Georgian television channels Formula, First Channel, Rustavi 2 and the online news agency Tabula reported that their journalists were violently attacked and that protesters demanded that they vacate the area near the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. Small numbers of police have been trying to secure TV crews from the anti-Pride protesters, escorting some journalists out of the area using police vehicles. 

Before attacking the journalists, protesters demolished tents that had been erected by political opposition groups after the last parliamentary election. The police stood by as the tents were destroyed.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

 Some of those tearing down the tents were wearing t-shirts that appeared to identify them as members of Alternative Georgia, a group founded in early 2019 and closely associated with the far-right. 

Zurab Makharadze, one of the leaders of Alt Info — a far-right sister group to Alternative Georgia —  was released from administrative detention shortly after trying to break through the police lines to thwart a closed Pride Week event on 1 July.

As of publication, Georgia’s Interior Ministry has not yet reported any further detentions over the violent incidents today.

A spokesperson for the Patriarchate, the ruling body of the Georgian Orthodox Church, condemned the violence against journalists, adding that 'the Church can not justify any of it'. 

On 4 July, the Patriarchate called for a counter-demonstration against the Pride March for 17:00 on Rustaveli Avenue, an hour before the March of Dignity was scheduled. 

Saakashvili ‘behind’ Pride

Several minutes after the tents outside of parliament were torn down, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that the March for Dignity, the culminating event of Pride Week, should not be held due to the danger of ‘civil conflict’. 

Gharibashvili went as far as insisting that 'revanchist', 'radical' groups affiliated with Georgian ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili were the secret, real organisers of Pride Week events. He made a similar statement in 2019 when Tbilisi Pride tried to hold the march in Tbilisi for the first time. 

The Prime Minister also added that the Interior Ministry was in ‘constant contact’ with the organisers of March of Dignity and that they were already given an alternative location for their event. 

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