Silencing Debate?

A Mysterious Pre-emption

Bangkok Post, August 8, 2001

TV political debate show abruptly cut

The Nation - State-run TV Channel 11 yesterday morning suddenly pulled a live debate show scheduled to go on air late last night after its production team refused to change the topic that was likely to touch on the Constitution Court's acquittal of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Producer Apinan Manakijsopon said he had disclosed on Monday that his "Rian Song Dan" (Two-sided Coin) programme would invite experts to discuss "Law or Political Science: Which Should Apply to Political Legal Cases?."

"Channel 11 asked me [afterwards] on Monday evening to choose new topics for the reason that the discussion might affect the government but I turned down its request because the Constitution prescribes the freedom to present news," he said. Then he was informed at 11am yesterday that his live show could not be broadcast yesterday and next Tuesday because his one-hour time slot was pre-empted to celebrate HM the Queen's birthday, he said.

"Rian Song Dan" is normally shown Tuesdays between 10.30pm and 11.30pm. Special programming for something like HM the Queen's birthday was generally planned well in advance and notice should have been given sooner, Apinan said.

Programme co-moderator Chirmsak Pinthong, also a senator, said the sudden deletion of the programme was tantamount to media interference and a violation of the Constitution. He said the Senate would investigate the unusual move. "This is not a normal practice at all. I noticed that Channel 11 rushed to prepare programmes to celebrate HM the Queen's birthday," he said of yesterday's events.

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