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Government-run NBT TV goes off air following shutdown of opposition DTV

(TJA/IFEX) - Thai media found themselves caught in the middle of the political turmoil that has been gripping the country, media reports said.

The Thai Journalist Association (TJA) issued a statement on 13 April 2009 calling on leaders of the Red Shirts not to interfere with the work of journalists covering events.

The TJA gave this statement in response to a declaration from the protesters that they cannot guarantee the safety of journalists whom they accused of biased reporting.

The violence and tension gripping Bangkok has inevitably led to charges and counter-charges between the protesters and government. The different sides are disputing each other's casualty counts, for example, as well as the overall conduct of the protests and the military action to quell the same. The confusion, allegations, and alleged misinformation from either side underscore the importance of allowing independent journalists to do their jobs.

"The Nation" said government-run NBT TV station in Khon Kaen province in the country's northeast region was forced to stop airing its programs after numerous Red Shirts demonstrated in front of the station on 13 April. As a result, 10 nearby provinces are now unable to watch NBT programs.

The protesters said that since the government has ordered the pro-Thaksin Democracy TV (DTV) station to cease operations, it was only proper that the government station should also stop its broadcasts.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued also on 13 April, the opposition Pheu Thai party said "The Thai media should present neutral coverage as biased reports are dangerous." The party also called on the government not to muzzle the media.

The Red Shirts paralyzed transportation in Bangkok on 9 April and forced the cancellation of the ASEAN Summit on 11 April.

The Prime Minister Office's representative, Sathit Wongnongtoey, announced on 12 April that it ordered the opposition-run DTV to stop broadcasting its programs when the government placed Bangkok and surrounding provinces under emergency rule on the same day.

However, DTV remained on air as it is reportedly broadcast outside Thailand.

During the week of 6 April, three broadcast reporters were attacked by Red Shirts while they were covering the massive protest rally in Bangkok. The protesters accused the journalists of biased reporting against the Red Shirts.

Thai Journalist Association (TJA) Vice President Wanchai Wongmeechai and Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) President Korkhet Chantalertlak expressed concern over the attacks. "The incidents create a climate of fear and anxiety among journalists who are covering the demonstration," Korkhet said.

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