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Independent Thai Paper Says Government Ordered Halt to Broadcasts - 2002-03-05

A major independent news media company in Thailand says the government has ordered it to stop broadcasts on a local radio station. Company officials say the order follows a broadcast interview that criticized government handling of an earlier ban of an international news magazine.

The broadcasting editor of Thailand's Nation Multimedia Group, said an unidentified military official telephoned to order him to stop radio broadcasts. The editor, Adisak Limplungpatanakit, called it direct government intervention. Mr. Adisak said he thinks the ban is because of interviews the station did that were critical of the government.

The Nation Group, whose flagship is a daily newspaper that has come under pressure for frequently criticizing the government, provided daily material to a radio and television station.

The Thai government owns all broadcasting frequencies, but leases them to private companies.

The order followed a broadcast last week in which a politician and a columnist criticized the government for its handling of a controversial article in the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review magazine. The Thai government last January banned an issue of the magazine after it published an article alleging differences of opinion between the monarchy and the government.

The government recently ordered the magazine's two reporters to leave the country. Under Thai law offending the monarchy is a crime.

The magazine's editor apologized Monday for the article and Thai police say they will not press criminal charges. But a committee has yet to rule on the reporter's appeal against their expulsion order.

The editors of another international magazine, The Economist, pulled this week's edition from Thai newsstands after learning that a survey of the Thai economy contained material that was deemed offensive.

Associations representing Thai and foreign journalists accuse the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of being over sensitive to criticism.

Government officials have said the news media are free to criticize the government, but they must respect the monarchy, which is revered by Thais.