|Suriname vice-president stops TV show over China-Taiwan controversy|
|Published on Monday, May 14, 2007||Email To Friend Print Version|
By Ivan Cairo
PARAMARIBO, Suriname: Managers at Suriname’s state-owned Suriname Television Foundation (STVS) TV-station pulled the plug on a live broadcast of a popular news show Thursday evening after vice-president Ram Sardjoe intervened. The controversial China-Taiwan issue was at the centre of the program when the vice-president advised to leave interviews with individuals commenting on the controversy out of the programme.
According to the producers of ‘Suriname Today,’ this was a request they could never honour since this would distort the format of the programme. The intervention of the government official according to the producers was a breach of the right of expression.
In an invited comment the vice-president late Thursday evening argued that his intervention was aimed at protecting the interest of the state.
“I regret that the producers are claiming that they were being censored, but as the government we have to look after the national interest of the country,” said Sardjoe.
He further argued that the China-Taiwan issue is an internal Chinese affair and interference from Suriname could jeopardize the ties with Beijing.
The vice president further stated that he didn’t ban the broadcast, but only made a “strong request” to treat the Taiwan-issue “very careful” and that, even though broadcasting comments of individuals was strongly advised against, it was no form of censorship or restriction of the right of expression.
Producer and editor-in-chief of Suriname Today, Nita Ramcharan, told an audience during a panel discussion Friday night, that since she couldn’t honour the vice president’s request, managers at the TV stations decided to cancel the broadcast.
She also revealed that a journalist who did an interview for the program with Chinese ambassador Su Ge received intimidating phone calls from staff members of the Chinese embassy urging the reporter not to use the material in any programme in which pro-Taiwan activist would appear.
It is also reported that staff members went to the TV stations to add pressure to their demands. The reporter felt intimidated and refused to handover the material to the producers of the news show.
“This is a blatant impertinence,” Ramcharan said at the panel discussion to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) has strongly condemned the government’s actions in censoring the programme, while the Surinamese Association of Journalists (SVJ) is still considering a response.
“We stand by the journalistic judgment and independence of the show’s producers and agree with our affiliate, the Surinamese Association of Journalists (SVJ), that the intervention of the country’s Vice-President, Mr Ram Sardjoe, had been a flagrant violation of the right of free expression,” said the ACM in a press release.
ACM President, Dale Enoch, said the ACM proposes to bring the full weight of the regional organisation and its international partners to bear on the situation.
“We will not hesitate for one minute to mobilise all available resources to address this situation,” Enoch said. He called on “the relevant authorities to unconditionally reinstate the programme”.
It is the second time a government led by president Ronald Venetiaan intervened in a TV show on one of the state-owned TV-stations.