Thousands Mourn Murder Of TV Journalist in Tbilisi

TBILISI, Georgia — Thousands of silent mourners holding candles and a long black cloth filed through the center of Tbilisi on Monday to honor one of Georgia's most popular television journalists, who was murdered last week.

Many of the protesters moving down the tree-lined Prospekt Rustaveli blamed the government for the killing of Georgy Sanaya, 26, an anchorman and political chat show host on the independent Rustavi-2 television station.

Sanaya was found shot with a single bullet to the head in his home last Thursday.

He is to be buried Tuesday in an Orthodox ceremony.

President Eduard Shevardnadze said earlier Monday that Sanaya's murder may have been aimed at sowing instability in Georgia.

"We should not rule out the possibility that we are dealing with a well-planned provocation aimed at creating instability, chaos and alienation between authorities and the Georgian public," Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address.

The marchers, shunning banners and slogans, remained silent as they unfurled a long black cloth most of the length of the street, passing in front of parliament and ending at the fence in front of Shevardnadze's office. "We are here to express our mourning because of Georgy's death and we are here to protest to the government and the president as they are responsible for this and many other killings," said Manana Grigalashvili, 46.

Sanaya's colleagues condemned his death as an attack on free-thinking journalists.

"The authorities bear the responsibility and it would only be logical for the government to resign," said a statement signed by dozens of Georgian journalists.

Shevardnadze said investigating the murder was an important priority for Georgia as the young nation built a democracy. "I have said many times we have not completed the construction of a really strong state, able to protect its citizens, especially well-known ones," he said.

Georgia enjoys relatively free media compared to other former Soviet republics, but there have been reports of intimidation of the press and even death threats.