Voice TV suspends two outspoken political commentators from talk programs

Voice TV, a digital TV channel owned by Panthongtae Shinawatra, the only son of ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has suspended two outspoken political commentators from their talk programs for 10 days.

The station’s action came after the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) reached a resolution at the weekend to take action on the two commentators whose criticisms were considered detrimental to national security.

NBTC deputy secretary Phakdi Manavej said the suspension of the two commentators from talk programs was effective August 15-24.

He said Nattakorn, the son of former Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakul, wouldn’t appear on two programs, Wake Up News and Tonight Thailand, while Atukkit Sawangsuk, better known through his nom de plume of Bai Tong Haeng, also would be suspended from any program on the channel for 10 days from August 15-24.

He said this was the action that Voice TV has proposed after it was notified of the NBTC’s resolution.

According to Khaosod English, Voice TV offered to muzzle the two commentators to avoid harsher sanctions by the NBTC, a state regulator granted special powers last month to censor the media.

Voice TV news director Prateep Kongsib twittered later that “We have to reduce the degree [of intensity] in order to survive under these special circumstances,”

But a NBTC commissioner Supinya Klangnarong said the offer was extended by Voice TV on Monday morning to avoid a 50,000 baht fine and having two programs removed from the air for one week.

She said Voice TV didn’t violate any laws but that any criticism of the National Council for Peace and Order could therefore be construed as a violation of that.

Nattakorn replied to inquiries yesterday saying he didn’t want to comment in detail.

“I would rather stay quiet on it. Trying to cooperate with [the commission] to prevent further escalation of the conflicts,” he wrote to a reporter. “But to sum it short, they are unhappy with commentary on political/divisive issues of most kinds,” according to Khaosod English.