On 15 September, a live political talk show known for its sharp criticism of the government was removed from Channel 9 television for allegedly improper contents including one that referred to the monarchy.
The removal of the program, Muang Thai Rai Sapda (Thailand Weekly) caused a social uproar as it followed entertainment giant GMM Grammy Group’s controversial bid to take over two publishers of prestigious newspapers Matichon Plc and Post Publishing Plc.
Program host Sondhi Limthongku, who is Manager newspaper founder, insisted the removal of his program was politically motivated. The program had been broadcast live on Channel 9 every Friday from 10pm-11pm since July 2, 2003.
He would resume his program on satellite-transmitted ASTVT channel, “News One”, starting the night of 16 September.
MCOT Plc, which owns the channel, issued a statement saying the company had to remove the program after several warning to Mr Sondhi to exercise caution when making comments and to adhere to the basic journalistic principle of not violating the rights and freedom of others.
It said Sondhi had made several one-sided attacks on people who had no chance of countering his accusations. In his 8 September program, Sondhi said the appointment of the interim Supreme Patriarch infringed on a royal prerogative and had made reference to the monarchy in a way that might cause public misunderstanding.
“Any reference to the monarchy has to be cautioned since the monarch is not in the position to answer or correct every misunderstanding. Therefore, we have to take action against Muang Thai Rai Sapda,” MCOT said.
Reacting to the accusation, Sondhi said MCOT Plc distorted the fact to turn the public sentiment against him. “I don’t mind be removed because I am critical of the government but do not distort the information,” he said.
Sondhi insisted he could only speak of truth and his reference to the monarchy was made with high respect.
MCOT was privatised earlier this year as parts of its modernisation program to shake of its image as the government’s mouthpiece. The company, which also produced on-line news and controlled some 100 radio stations nation wide, was once dubbed as “Twilight Zone” for being plagued with inter-wined political and commercial interests.
[Original title: “Controversial political talk show axed from Thailand’s Channel 9 station”]
16 September 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)