The fight to re-instate the only uncensored TV broadcast into China was taken to the political heart of Europe on Thursday, as members of the European parliament joined demonstrators outside the European Commission in Brussels.
Supporters of New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) demanded that European-based satellite company Eutelsat restore its broadcast into China.
Euteslat claims that the signal was killed due to "technical problems"—a claim refuted by evidence of taped conversations obtained by a press freedom organisation.
“We have witnesses from Reporters Without Borders which show us that this was a political decision,” said MEP Pierre Jonckheer. “As members of the parliament we are now contacting the European Commission and other authorities to make sure that Eutelsat changes its behaviour.”
Mr Jonckheer was joined by four other MEPs at the rally in Brussels on October 8th.
NTDTV was the only Chinese language TV station broadcast reaching into China not under the control of the Chinese communist regime. The New York based TV station says that the broadcast, carried on Eutelsat’s W5 satellite since 2005, had the potential to reach millions of Chinese viewers.
Eutelsat initially claimed that the abrupt halt in the transmission of NTDTV’s signal into China was due to “technical problems” resulting to a power failure.
However Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) cited a taped phone conversation with a Eutelsat employee which revealed the signal had been cut to curry favour with the Chinese communist regime.
A RSF representative in Brussels said that the excuse of technical problems was just nonsense, and that the satellite now more than had the capacity to carry NTDTVs signal into China once again. He was clear that the real reason for the halt of the signal was commercial interests and political pressure.
David Hammerstein MEP said: “If we don’t defend the basic principles and objectives of the EU with regard to democracy and freedom of speech we will have problems in China and we will have problems which come home to roost here in Europe. We must be consistent. We must prefer human rights over the rights of some, often European, companies that are pushing their economic gain over the values and objectives of the European Union. ”
Having visited China as a delegate of the European Parliament, MEP Helga Trupel said she had experienced first hand the effects of censorship in China. She described how her TV screen in a Shanghai hotel suddenly went blank just as a TV programme about Tibet was due to start.
“That is the reality of China these days,” said Ms Trupel. “There is no free press. People don’t have the possibility to be properly informed. That is why it is so important that NTDTV has the possibility to provide information to the citizens of China. We will put pressure on our governments in the 27 member states to put pressure on the French presidency.”