WARSAW, Poland—“Freedom of the Press – Yes! Giving in to the regime – No!” demanded banners at a protest in front of the Warsaw offices of Eutelsat Communications, on August 14. Approximately 20 people gathered calling for the company to immediately resume the transmission of New Tang Dynasty Television’s signal (NTDTV) over Asia on its W5 satellite.
“As of August 1, Eutelsat has had a free transponder facing Asia, and is contract-bound to resume the NTDTV transmission immediately,” said Jan Jekielek, International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) representative in Poland (and also a staff member of The Epoch Times), who organized the event.
Eutelsat, in an August 13 letter to ISHR from Deputy CEO Jean-Paul Brillaud, reiterated its position that a technical malfunction on W5 prevents the company from resuming NTDTV’s signal.
However, on July 31, Eutelsat ended its contract with the Broadcasting Board Governors (BBG), the independent federal agency responsible for all U.S. government-backed international civilian broadcasting, opening up another W5 transponder over Asia, The Epoch Times has learned.
Polish politicians, many of whom are away on summer holiday, were joining the appeal up to the last minute.
“Even within the last couple of hours, Parliamentarian Barbara Bartus and Senator Josef Bergier has me contacted to express their support,” said Jekielek at the beginning of the press conference.
European parliament member Konrad Szymanski sent a letter to the press conference, in which he describes what he sees as the only solution.
“Today, Eutelsat has only one means to retain its credibility… By returning to the Chinese people access to free, independent information, meaning immediately resuming the NTDTV transmission over Asia on the W5 satellite,” he wrote.
Ton Van Anh, Vietnamese Radio Free Asia correspondent, also spoke at the event. “People in many Asian countries have to be very discreet to receive independent broadcasts, and even then they are often jammed,” observed Van An Anh, adding that now they also have to worry about corporations such as Eutelsat blocking signals.
A Eutelsat representative was unavailable for comment; building security explained that staff had taken the day off. Jekielek wondered if it had anything to do with the letter he sent to Poland Eutelsat office two days earlier, explaining the protest.
Similar appeals took place in the London and Paris, with an aim to pressure Eutelsat management and gain public support. Protestors said that NTDTV plays a leading role in freedom of the press in China, and is an antidote to what they called “the unified propaganda voice of the Chinese state media.”
Voices of Support
Several Polish European Parliament Members supported the appeal along with Szymanski, including Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka, Ewa Tomaszewska, Wojciech Roszkowski, and Paweł Piskorski.
In addition to Bartos and Bergier, two current national parliament members also joined the appeal, former two-time Health Minister Marek Balicki and former Interior Minister Marek Biernacki.
Aside from Polish politicians’ support, similar appeals have been backed by a total 95 European Parliament Members, and over 180 members of the Parliament of France.