New York, July 27, 2001–A popular 26-year-old Georgian journalist was found dead in his Tbilisi apartment yesterday, according to local and international reports. Georgy Sanaya was shot once in the head at close range with a 9mm weapon.
Sanaya anchored “Night Courier,” a nightly political talk show in which he interviewed Georgia’s leading politicians on the independent television station Rustavi-2.
“We are shocked at the brutal murder of our colleague,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ calls for an exhaustive investigation to determine the motive for Sanaya’s killing and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Nika Tabatadze, news director at Rustavi-2, told CPJ that Sanaya’s colleagues became concerned when he failed to report for work at the usual time on Thursday afternoon and did not answer his home or cellular telephones.
That evening, a group of co-workers went to his apartment and knocked repeatedly on the door. When there was no answer, they called the police, who entered the apartment and discovered Sanaya’s body.
The police have launched an investigation into the murder.
In a special television address, President Eduard Shevardnadze directed the minister of internal affairs, the prosecutor general, and the minister of state security to oversee the investigation personally.
President Shevardnadze met with U.S. chargé d’affaires Philip Remler today and asked for U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation help in the investigation, according to Georgian and Russian press sources.
Sanaya’s Rustavi-2 colleagues firmly believe that the murder resulted from his professional work, although they were not aware of any specific threats against the journalist.
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, executive director of Rustavi-2, told CPJ that the murder could have been intended to intimidate the station, which is known for its investigative reporting on state corruption and misuse of power in Georgia. The station has frequently been the target of government harassment in recent years.
While Sanaya’s work was not generally controversial, he had recently hosted a segment on Georgia’s Pankiss Gorge, an area that has recently been the scene of kidnappings and conflict between Chechen and Georgian residents. A former parliamentary deputy who appeared on the program speculated publicly that criminals from the Pankiss Gorge region may have been responsible for Sanaya’s murder.