The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia yesterday charged Davit Velijanashvili, who allegedly assaulted the crew of government-critical Formula TV on March 17, with persecution committed with violence or threat of violence, and interference with journalists’ professional activities using the threat of violence.
The two charges, Article 156 (2a) and 154 (2) of the Criminal Code, respectively, carry a maximum prison term of three years.
The Special Investigation Service was initially leading the probe under Article 154 (2), foreseeing two years in prison. But Chief of the freshly-established agency, Koka Katsitadze, had not ruled out the possibility of relatively tougher punishment for the suspect.
The Prosecutor’s Office argued on March 20 that Velijanashvili persecuted the TV crew over his negative attitude toward the Formula channel and its journalists.
The man hurled insults and expletives at the journalists, threatened to fire shots and assaulted all three crew members, according to the investigation.
Velijanashvili has since been sent to pretrial detention, after the Tbilisi City Court satisfied the prosecution’s relevant motion on March 20.
Police officers detained the suspect early on March 18.
The incident took place around 19:00 on March 17, when Formula TV reporter Nano Chakvetadze, a cameraman and cameraman’s assistant were trying to conduct an interview at a café in Tbilisi’s Vake neighborhood.
Footage from later in the day also showed the suspect berating a second Formula TV crew, which had arrived at the café to inquire about the incident. Velijanashvili could be seen being held back by two other persons from seemingly launching a physical attack.
The Coalition for Media Advocacy, a group of press freedom watchdogs in Georgia, has warned the assault was encouraged by the authorities’ consistent failure to properly react to attacks against journalists.
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