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Fistfights erupt in Georgian parliament as media blocked from entering

Government and opposition MPs brawl in the Georgian Parliament on 12 July. Image via Maestro TV.

Fistfights have broken out in the Georgian Parliament between Georgian Dream and opposition MPs. The fights occurred after members of the media were prevented from entering the building.

Several dozen journalists, including those with parliamentary accreditation, were prevented from entering the building on Monday afternoon to ask ruling party MPs about the homophobic riots of 5 July.

Georgia’s first Pride march that was due to be held on 5 July turned into a hunt for journalists, with media workers covering the protests insisting that the authorities failed in their duty to protect the free press.  Fifty-three journalists were injured, one of whom passed away on Sunday morning.

[Read on OC Media: Journalists recall day of terror in Tbilisi]

The heads of several TV stations were among those prevented from entering parliament. 

Despite mounting calls for resignations, the government has remained defiant.

Once it became clear this morning that the Prime Minister did not intend to resign, the managers of TV channels Pirveli, Formula, Mtavari, and Kavkasia gathered in front of parliament.

[Read on OC Media: Gharibashvili doubles down with homophobia and conspiracy theories]

The fighting broke out after Vato Tsereteli, the owner of TV Pirveli, managed to enter parliament’s chamber. It was a camera operator from TV Pirveli, Aleksandre Lashkarava, who died on Sunday.

Tsereteli was forcefully escorted out of parliament after the confrontation. 

The fights included several opposition leaders including the leader of Strategy Agmashenebeli, Giorgi Vashadze.

‘[Georgian Dream MP] Viktor Japaridze got into a physical confrontation [with me], he was swearing, I told him to stop,’ Vashadze said.

At one point, women MPs Tina Bokuchava, Ana Natsvlishvili, Nato Chkheidze, Ana Tsitlidze and others sat in the tribune of the Speaker of the Parliament and refused to leave. They hung the national flag of Georgia and the EU flag over the podium and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.

After that the women deputies were forced to leave the parliament hall. One of them, Ana Tsitlidze said that she was verbally abused by the parliament security.

Several opposition figures have urged the opposition to continue picketing parliament until the ruling party agrees to begin a no-confidence motion against the government.

Several media representatives and opposition leaders have called on people to join a protest today at 18:00 in front of the parliament to protest Lashkarava’s death and violence against the media.

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