Foreign state officials, diplomats, media rights groups react to July 5 violence in Tbilisi

  • Formula channel journalist Rati Tsverava is attacked by demonstrators against Tbilisi Pride march. Over 50 journalists were reported to have been left with injuries during the day. Photo via InterPressNews agency., 6 Jul 2021 - 16:11, Tbilisi,Georgia

State officials, current and former diplomats and media rights organisations have been reacting to the developments in Tbilisi on Monday, where a right-wing demonstration against a planned Tbilisi Pride march for queer rights attacked reporters gathered to cover the eventually cancelled event before also storming offices of Pride organisers.

The violent scenes in the capital city drew responses from European MPs, United States Department of State spokesperson, Amnesty International Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders and more, with condemnations for the attacks that left around 50 journalists injured.

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stressed the obligations of Georgian state officials and law enforcement to protect rights of assembly and expression, and called on relevant agencies to prosecute violent offenders.

On her part, Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, retweeted a Formula NEWS outlet video showing the right-wing groups storming the offices of Tbilisi Pride organisers before vandalising the premises.

Callamard said she was "[a]bsolutely revolted by violence" from the attackers and called on the Georgian government to investigate and bring those responsible for the actions to face justice.

Amnesty International's organisation response said the assaults in Tbilisi had been "predictable", adding state authorities were responsible for the failure to protect those who had come under attack.

Council of Europe Director of Communications and Special Representative on antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of religious intolerance and hate crimes, Daniel Holtgen, also took to Twitter to condemn the scenes that unfolded in the Georgian capital on Monday.

Holtgen underscored the Georgian state's responsibility in protecting rights of all of its citizens for freedom of expression and assembly, in his condemnation of the incidents.

Reporters Without Borders were prompt in their response to the developments on Monday, tweeting in the afternoon by Georgian local time about the preliminary reports on a dozen of journalists who were attacked by the violent groups.

RSF said it denounced "this massive attack" and called on the authorities to use their resources to investigate and issue condemnations of the assaults.

Justice for Journalists Foundation, a United Kingdom-based organisation investigating violence against reporters, posted a number of tweets responding to the July 5 events, calling for investigation "into the unprecedented violence on media workers in #Tbilisi."

The Foundation posted a list of journalists subjected to the attacks and left with injuries in the capital city on their website, recording 107 attacks on 54 journalists and their crews.

Markétka Gregorová, a member of the European Parliament, condemned the Orthodox Church of Georgia's role in the developments and said it was "a shame that violence goes unpunished."

Ian Kelly, former US Ambassador to Georgia who also held positions of State Department Spokesperson and Ambassador to the OSCE, called Monday a "sad day for Georgia and those who support it."

In his retweet of the US Embassy in Georgia's comments, Kelly stressed the government's responsibility in ensuring the right of assembly and protecting journalists covering events.

The violence in Tbilisi also saw a reaction on twitter from Ruben Brekelmans, member of the Dutch parliament for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.

Brekelmans posted the video footage of the violent groups' attack on the Tbilisi Pride offices, adding "European leaders need to put pressure on Georgia to immediately safeguard freedom and equal rights."

Law enforcement have arrested 11 individuals so far for violence during the day in Tbilisi, with the interior ministry reporting 55 people, including 53 journalists, as having become targets of the attacks.

The right-wing groups had gathered on Monday to prevent the Tbilisi Pride march, a closing event of the week-long programme for highlighting queer rights, from taking place.

After the violent attackers left the reporters injured and stormed the Pride organisers' offices, the LGBTQ activists announced the march would not be held on Monday.

Their announcement included sharp criticism of "shameful" comments from Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili about the Pride event and "inaction" from the interior ministry in protecting its participants.

Garibashvili had said holding Tbilisi Pride was "not reasonable" and could "lead to civic confrontation", while head of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze alleged the queer event represented "the interests of the United National Movement radical opposition and their partner parties".