Releasing Vakho Sanaia’s Attackers is Another Attempt to Incite Violence Against Journalists
We would like to comment on the court decision, issued against the individuals who assaulted journalist Vakho Sanaia. We believe that the decision may incite violence against critical media representatives. This decision will further aggravate the pre-election media environment, in light of the recent attacks against journalists, their discrediting, and the ineffective response from the authorities.
On the evening of February 25, 2021, three people attacked Vakho Sanaia, the host of the TV outlet Formula. At that time, the journalist was accompanied by his wife and a child. In today's judgment, the court found the attackers of Vakho Sanaia guilty and sentenced them to six months in prison. It is noteworthy that all three attackers were held in pre-trial detention for six months, and according to today's court decision, they all received six-month prison sentences. Consequently, the attackers will be released today as they had already spent six months in pre-trial detention.
The case of Vakho Sanaia cannot be considered separately from the developments that are taking place in the country's media environment, involving investigations / prosecutions of critical media owners, managers, and their family members. At the same time, the facts of the frequent attacks on journalists are not investigated effectively, and this includes the case of the responsibility of the leaders and organizers of the June 5 attacks by violent groups on journalists. These circumstances indicate that today the state fails to ensure the safety of journalists.
Local self-government elections will be held in Georgia in a few weeks. Therefore, critical media outlets are receiving a clear message, that there will be no adequate response from state institutions in the event of a violation of their physical security. This circumstance aggravates the situation of the media in the pre-election period while providing critical information to the public by the media outlets is crucial for conducting democratic elections.