Four TV Channels Off Air for One Day in Protest

Four Georgian Dream government-critical TV channels, Mtavari Arkhi, TV Pirveli, Formula and Kavkasia went off the air at 07:00 today for 24 hours, demanding Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s resignation and delivering justice to all perpetrators of the mass violence of July 5.

The broadcast of the four channels shows titles on a black background, listing the names of the 53 journalists attacked by far-right radicals, which media outlets they represent and where they were assaulted.

In protest, regional TV channels also went off the air for 10 minutes today.

The protest comes in the wake of TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre (Lekso) Lashkarava’s death on July 11, six days after being brutally attacked by the hate groups. Lashkarava was laid to rest yesterday.

The Interior Ministry has cited an interim chemical expertise report that Lashkarava could have died of a drug overdose, but his family, friends and colleagues have voiced distrust in the forensics’ results. They argue the authorities are attempting to discredit the deceased journalist, and note that Lashkarava was prescribed morphine for the severe pain stemming from injuries received during the assault, including facial fractures.

Lashkarava’s death spurred two sizeable demonstrations of media professionals, journalists, civic activists, opposition politicians and citizens on July 11-12, demanding the Government’s resignation.

The 53 journalists were attacked by far-right radicals while covering the counter-rally against the July 5 Pride March, canceled subsequently due to the outbreak of homophobic violence and lack of safety guarantees by the state.

As of July 14, police have arrested 18 on charges of violence, persecution and interference with journalists’ professional activities. Among them, five were involved in the assault on Lashkarava.

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