Politicians and human rights groups in Dublin last week urged the worlds third largest satellite provider, France's Eutelsat to reconnect New Tang Dynasty Television's (NTDTV's) signal into China.
NTDTV provided the only opportunity for mainland Chinese to receive uncensored news, which differs greatly from China’s state controlled media. This fact was highlighted especially so in the run up to the Olympics when issues with respect to the Olympic flame fiasco's were unmentioned on state run broadcasts.
NTDTV broadcast into China is free to receivers and utilities technology that allows people to receive the transmission using small satellite dishes (40-80 centimetres in diameter) which are easily hidden from the Chinese authorities who fear independent news flowing into China.
In light of Eutelsat's decision to suspend NTDTV's signal Irish politicians rallied to support the Chinese people who depend on this service for impartial uncensored information.
Ms Mary Lou McDonald MEP called on the Irish Government and the communications minister to exert pressure on Eutelsat who provides services to state run Irish broadcaster RTE Radio. “Words are not sufficient we need action” said Ms McDonald.
“What we have here with NTDTV is a clear case of censorship, it's as simple and as clear cut as that” claimed Ms McDonald. The Irish government needs to set out clearly what they are going to do about this issue, she said.
She hoped that the Government would do the right thing and also mentioned that she had been in contact with Viviane Reding a Member of the European Commission, responsible for Information Society and Media with a view to pressuring Eutelsat to honour its contract with NTDTV.
“NTDTV is the window into the wider world that must be kept open”, Ms McDonald who also touched on Ireland's record with respect to political censorship (Section 31) and how it was “massively counter productive, massively unhelpful and repressive'.
The Sin Fein MEP spoke about how during her work as a European politician core values such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and human rights were heard around the European Chambers daily. “Then moments arrive where if you are saying that then prove that you believe it prove that you are prepared to act.”
“The commission must defend those democratic rights which it articulates so frequently” concluded Ms McDonald.
Former Green MEP, Ms Patricia McKenna said that there was an onus on the European Union to react to Eutelsat's decision “this is Europe's leading operator and the world's third largest, it is inconceivable that European politicians, who claim to be advocates of free speech and democracy, would turn a blind eye to this flagrant denial of freedom of the press to those in need of a free press and information.”
Two weeks prior to the start of the Olympics, Giuliano Berretta, CEO of European satellite company, Eutelsat, suspended the broadcast of NTDTV to mainland China, citing a “power anomaly.” On July 10th, the Paris based press watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), published an investigative report, revealing the reason behind NTDTV’s broadcast interruption was not technical as Eutelsat claimed, but a “pre-meditated political move to appease the Chinese Communist Government,” said Pia-Maria Morris, spokesperson for NTDTV.
NTDTV is a non-profit television network which reached roughly 200 million people world-wide with an estimated 40 to 60 million viewers in China.
“Eutelsat affirms that it holds absolutely no prejudice against channels broadcast by its satellites and notably NTDTV,” said the company’s general counsel, Philippe McAllister.