New York, July 6, 2021 – Georgian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate anti-LGBT demonstrators’ recent attacks on dozens of journalists, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, a group of more than 1,000 people demonstrating against a planned LGBT Pride rally in Tbilisi, the capital, attacked dozens of journalists covering the event, as well as event organizers, according to multiple news reports and Natia Zambakhidze, head of the Georgia bureau of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Tinatin Berdzenishvili, chief executive of Georgian public broadcaster Pirveli Arkhi, both of whom spoke with CPJ in phone interviews.
The rally, scheduled for yesterday, was canceled after counterdemonstrators arrived at the scene and stormed the building housing Tbilisi Pride’s office, according to those reports. Those demonstrators proceeded to attack at least 55 people, including 53 members of the press, according to a statement by the Georgian Interior Ministry, which said that police were investigating those attacks.
CPJ was unable to immediately confirm the identifies of the 53 journalists reported by the Interior Ministry to have been attacked at the rally or the nature of their injuries.
“Georgian authorities should immediately investigate the atrocious attacks on journalists yesterday by an anti-LGBT mob in Tbilisi, and ensure that the attackers are held accountable,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director. “Police officers are responsible for protecting journalists who are doing their jobs, and it is essential that members of the press can cover protests safely and without fear.”
Demonstrators targeted people who had cameras, were wearing press vests, or were otherwise identifiable as members of the press, according to Zambakhidze and RFE/RL reporter Tornike Mandaria, who also spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
The demonstrators attacked RFE/RL reporters Mandaria and Tamuna Chkareuli, as well as camera operator David Koridze, Zambakhidze and Mandaria said.
A group of about 50 people confronted Mandaria and Koridze, and one man punched Mandaria in the face and another pushed Koridze to the ground and kicked him in the head, Mandaria said.
Mandaria told CPJ that a group of about 10 police officers were standing nearby and saw the attack. He said he ran to the officers and asked them to intervene, but they ignored him, and one officer used an anti-gay slur and added that the journalists should expect to be attacked for interacting with the Pride rally.
Mandaria and Koridze were taken to a local hospital, where Koridze was diagnosed with a cranial hematoma and Mandaria with a broken nose and five broken teeth, Mandaria said.
Separately, Chkareuli was filming demonstrators attack a passerby when a group of people ran after her and threw bottles at her, Zambakhidze said. He told CPJ that Chkareuli was bruised by the bottles but was not seriously injured.
Zambakhidze told CPJ that the police have opened an investigation into the attack on RFE/RL journalists.
The protesters also attacked Pirveli Arkhi camera operator Ilia Tvaliashvili and correspondents Anna Bruladze and Anna Patsia, according to news reports and Berdzenishvili.
Demonstrators shoved Tvaliashvili to the ground, kicked him in the body and head, and threw an unidentified chemical into his eyes, according to those sources. Separately, a man on a scooter attempted to run over Bruladze and Patsia, but they escaped without injury, Berdzenishvili said.
Tvaliashvili was hospitalized and treated for eye injuries and a concussion, according to Berdzenishvili and reports, which said that his health was “satisfactory” and his eyes were in pain but he had not lost his vision.
The independent news website Net Gazeti identified at least 11 other journalists who were attacked, including TV Pirveli reporters Guga Maisuradze and Nanuka Kadzhaya, and camera operator Levan Bregvadze; Imedi TV reporter Dimitri Kirimlishvili; Formula TV reporters Luka Khachidze, Georgi Gabunia, Rati Tsverava, and Sulkhan Elbakidze; and Rustavi 2 TV reporters Marika Gotsiridze, Tamar Tatarashvili, and camera operator Zurab Managadze.
CPJ emailed Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment but did not receive any response.