Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha this afternoon denied orchestrating the removal of the head of a military-run TV station which drew ire for promoting Russian government propaganda.
Prayuth said he had no role in the departure of Gen. Rangsi Kitiyansap, director of army-owned Channel 5. Rangsi earlier today told reporters that he stepped down for “personal reasons” after his push for the station to air government propaganda from Russia, Iran, and China drew a backlash.
“I won’t talk about my personal reasons because it is not necessary,” Rangsi was quoted in media reports, saying he had asked to be removed from his post.
His removal came on the order of army commander Gen. Narongphan Chitkaewthae, who appointed Lt. Gen. Wisanti Srasida as acting managing director.
Despite Rangsi’s denials, Wassana Nanuam, a reporter with close ties to the military, wrote that high level brass were not pleased with Channel 5’s reporting of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Rangsi and his crew last week met Russian Ambassador Evgeny Tomikhin, and he’d recently agreed to broadcast Kremlin-controlled news coverage, along with “news” from Tehran and Beijing.
After those plans were widely criticized, Channel 5 abruptly canceled a news conference announcing its partnerships with Russian government media. Rangsi defended them as “free” sources that would “balance” genuine news stories on the Russian invasion.
No explanation was given at the time. But, that same day, Rangsi and channel executives met with the Ukrainian Charge d’Affaires Oleksandr Lysak, and reportedly agreed to air the Ukrainian perspective as well.
The station, which is one of few universally available by free broadcast, had been increasingly taking sides in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Just earlier this month, two Channel 5 hosts were blasted for regurgitating easily disproven disinformation that presented old footage from a climate change protest in Austria as Ukrainians faking casualties in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion.
There was a dramatic sign of intervention from higher-ups just yesterday, when a noon Channel news program was cut and replaced with a commercial.