Thailand’s military government censors satellite TV station

New York, March 20, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the censorship of a new satellite television station by Thai authorities, part of an ongoing ban against the broadcaster since the military seized power in a coup last September.

Over the weekend, government agencies blocked news programs carried by PTV, or People’s Television, which was established last month in Hong Kong by politicians from ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai political party.

A PTV employee told CPJ that access to their station was first blocked on Sunday, approximately 10 hours after its maiden broadcast. PTV was unclear about what footage, if any, may have driven the government to censor its broadcasts.

“The military government’s ongoing censorship of news is completely out of step with its promise to return Thailand to democracy as soon as possible,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on authorities to allow PTV to report the news free of government harassment.”

The station had failed to air on March 1, after the state-run Communications Authority of Thailand and the Telephone Organization of Thailand, which together control the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, had declined to give PTV the Internet access it needed to launch the new channel. To bypass the state agencies, PTV joined with Star Channel MV1, one of 18 satellite broadcasters in the country.

Top military leaders had earlier indicated that they would not interfere with PTV’s news broadcasts if the station abided by rules it has imposed on state-controlled television stations, including a ban on broadcasting any news footage or interviews that feature Thaksin. The government has on several occasions blocked news spots that featured footage of Thaksin, including reports from international news broadcasters CNN and BBC.

Last week, the Information and Communication Industry Ministry blocked Web site after it carried stock video footage of Thaksin greeting his political supporters. Earlier the pro-Thaksin Web site had published a written question-and-answer interview with the deposed premier, which was republished by several mainstream Thai and English-language newspapers.