Journalists, Injured During July Homophobic Violence, Sue Police

Transparency International Georgia is filing a lawsuit in the Tbilisi City Court against the Interior Ministry to defend the rights of the journalists that suffered injuries during homophobic pogroms on July 5, 2021.

Overall 24 journalists from three TV channels — Mtavari Arkhi, Formula, and TV Pirveli – and an online outlet will demand the recovery of the non-pecuniary loss, “as the state failed to fulfill its constitutional duty to ensure the safety of their activity.”

TI Georgia said today that the lawsuit is based on documented evidence including six-hour-long video material and more than 400 pages, as well as additional information obtained from the Interior Ministry about the police measures undertaken on July 5.

Speaking at today’s press conference, Eka Gigauri, the head of TI Georgia, said that the organization possesses “authentic evidence” that the Interior Ministry had all possible means to protect journalists, but the Ministry “did not use these resources.”

She noted that filing the lawsuit “is very important to ensure that the state and specific agencies assume the responsibilities prescribed by our constitution and laws.”

“We are ready to apply to the courts of every instance and even go to Strasbourg [ECHR] if needed,” Gigauri added.

The watchdog said it plans to file another lawsuit in the near future, seeking compensation for material damages incurred by journalists during the violence.

Remarks by Mtavari Arkhi TV, Formula Directors

Nika Gvaramia, director general of Mtavari Arkhi TV, who attended today’s press conference, stressed that the lawsuit should serve as “a preventive punishment for the government to know that such punitive measures [against journalists] cannot be left without proper reaction.”

He called on government officials to refrain from rhetoric that may be “incorrectly interpreted” and perceived as an encouragement for violence against media.

Zuka Gumbaridze, Formula TV director-general, who also delivered remarks at the press conference, stressed that the organizers of the violence remain unpunished almost one year after the July developments.

Gumbaridze also took note of the Interior Minister not resigning, despite his failure to carry out preventive measures to avoid the violence against journalists.

“Our key message is that we will not leave this case and will bring it to the end,” he added.

Over 50 journalists suffered injuries in a series of violent attacks during the homophobic pogroms of July 5, 2021, which ensued against the planned LGBTQ Tbilisi Pride parade.

One of those, TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava died a few days after the assault, followed by the police quickly floating the version of his narcotics overdose.

Overall, police arrested 27 people for attacking media representatives. Court found all of them guilty of violence against journalists. 26 were sentenced to jail, while a GEL 5,000 fine was imposed on one assailant.

In September, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria requested prosecutors to launch criminal proceedings against Zurab Makharadze, far-right Alt-Info TV anchor (who later co-founded far-right Conservative Movement party), and Spiridon Tskipurishvili, a clergyman, over organizing group violence during the July 5 homophobic pogroms.

The Georgian authorities, however, have not yet launched prosecution against any persons for organizing the disturbance.

An annual human rights report, published recently by the U.S. Department of State, has said “the government’s failure to credibly investigate and prosecute the organizers of violence on July 5-6 resulted in impunity for those abuses.”

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