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Tributes paid to Georgian journalist who died after beating at anti-LGBT protest

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
Colleagues of Alexander Lashkarava held a minute of silent during a farewell ceremony in Tbilisi.
Colleagues of Alexander Lashkarava held a minute of silent during a farewell ceremony in Tbilisi.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov
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Hundreds of journalists have gathered in Georgia to pay tribute to a cameraman who died after being beaten last week during an anti-LGBT march.

Alexander Lachkarava was assaulted by far-right activists on 5 July on the sidelines of the protest and suffered multiple facial fractures.

The 37-year-old was dead in his bed on Sunday, according to Pirveli TV, the channel he worked for.

The NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated that his death was "a calamitous turn for freedom of information" in Georgia.

More than fifty journalists were attacked at the anti-LGBT demonstrations last week in the capital city, Tbilisi. The rallies forced organisers of the city's Gay Pride parade to cancel the event for fear of the safety of participants.

On Tuesday, a crowd gathered outside Lachkarava's home before his funeral on Tuesday, and his coffin was carried to applause through a line of journalists, with their cameras pointing to the ground in mourning.

"The government has always tried to stifle the independent press," said Eka Michveladze, a journalist with Pirveli TV, at the televised funeral.

"We are mourning the death of a colleague today, but tomorrow everyone will know the strength of our independent media," added Vakho Sanaia, a reporter for Formula TV.

Four independent television stations in the country also suspended their broadcasts for 24 hours on Wednesday in protest.

"Garibashvili must resign. All those who attacked journalists on July 5 must be prosecuted," they demanded in identical statements on their Facebook pages.

The Georgian authorities have promised a prompt investigation into the death of Alexander Lachkarava, calling it an "incredible tragedy".

But RSF has accused the government of "guilty passivity" in the face of the violence.

After the death of Lachkarava, thousands of Georgians demonstrated to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

The Georgian PM has come under fire from both the opposition and human rights activists for taking a stance against the LGBT march, calling it "unacceptable to a large part of society".

During a stormy session in parliament on Monday, opposition MPs came to blows as they called for Garibashvili to resign.

Twelve people were also detained after eggs and paint were thrown at the headquarters of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The European Union and the United States has condemned last week's attacks on journalists and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.