Four independent Georgian TV stations have suspended broadcasts for 24 hours in protest over attacks against journalists and the death of a cameraman.
Protests erupted in the capital Tbilisi following the death on Sunday of Alexander Lashkarava, a 37-year-old cameraman working for independent TV station Pirveli, less than a week after he was assaulted by a violent mob protesting against a planned LGBTQ Pride parade.
His death, and the beating of dozens of other journalists by the mob, has prompted a wave of outrage in the country and abroad, with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) saying it "marks a disastrous turning point for the freedom to inform in Georgia."
Prominent Georgian TV personalities and managers have accused Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili's government of setting violent hate groups against critical media.
Four independent TV stations - Formula, Mtavari, Pirveli, and Kavkasia - said they were suspending broadcasting for 24 hours from today.
"Garibashvili must resign. All those who attacked journalists on 5 July must be prosecuted," they said in identical statements on their Facebook pages.
"We have suspended running programmes for 24 hours. Our silence will shout loudly about the incredible challenges independent media face in Georgia," said Pirveli TV station's news editor, Nodar Meladze.
Hundreds of journalists turned out yesterday for Mr Lashkarava's funeral, which saw his coffin carried through a corridor of colleagues with their cameras lowered on tripods.
President Garibashvili expressed condolences to Mr Lashkarava's family and colleagues and promised a prompt investigation into the cause of his death, which he has called an "incredible tragedy."
Asked about possible sanctions against Georgian officials over the attacks, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing: "We have a number of tools to hold accountable those responsible in some way for human rights abuses, for violence around the world. Sanctions are indeed one of those tools."
Critics have accused the ruling Georgian Dream of tacitly supporting homophobic and nationalist groups.
These groups are seen as supporters of the ruling party and have staged protests against pro-Western opposition parties, attacking opposition leaders and activists.