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Jatuporn rails against TV ban

Posted by pakin On April - 29 - 2015

The leader of the red shirt movement hit out Tuesday at plans to take his pro-democracy television network off the air in the latest strike against freedom of expression in the military-ruled kingdom.

The broadcasting committee under the the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has said it plans to revoke the broadcasting licence for Peace TV, which features daily programmes by Jatuporn Prompan and Nattawut Saikuar, the two key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

Regulators accuse Peace TV of failing to abide by an agreement with junta officials that it stay clear of politics.

On Monday, committee chief Natee Sukonrat said Peace TV would be banned because the network is “still airing content that leads to conflicts”.

The move came as the red-shirt movement prepares to mark a 2010 military crackdown on protesters that left more than 90 dead, most of whom were demonstrators.

Pro-democracy campaigners are also likely to try to mark the anniversary of last year’s coup on May 22.

Speaking on the channel, Mr Jatuporn, who is the UDD chairman, denied causing divisions and threatened to take the media regulators to court if his station was unplugged.

“There was no message causing division in the entire programme. I keep telling people to be patient and not to leave this theatre until the movie ends,” he said.

“I will fight until the end… At the end of the day, it’s difficult to be a good boy in this country,” he added.

Mr Nattawut, the UDD secretary-general, also used his programme to strongly oppose the threat and said the decision to revoke the licence could not deter him from making political comments. “If it’s shut down, we will find other venues to speak out,’’ he said, adding the closure of the station could not silence people with different opinions from those in power.

Executives and staff of Peace Television Co who runs the channel submitted a letter to NBTC secretary-general Thakorn Tanthasit, urging a reconsideration of the licence revocation.

Peace Television Co director Anankasak Khamkao said the station had no chance to defend the case and warned that the company could petition the Administrative Court or His Majesty the King for justice.

Mr Thakorn said the decision was not politically driven. The letter will be forwarded to the NBTC chief, he said, but did not guarantee that the issue would be in on the next meeting’s agenda.

Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association vice-president Supan Rukchuea also urged the committee to reconsider the licence revocation, saying the decision was too harsh.

“But Peace TV should realise that press freedom also comes with responsibility, especially when Thai society is undergoing reform and reconciliation,’’ he said.

Under junta rules, Peace TV had toned down its tirades against the Bangkok-based elite but in recent months Mr Jatuporn has spoken more directly against the ruling regime.

In early April, Peace TV, formerly UDD channel, was taken off the air for seven days following a spat with the military over its content.

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