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Trump’s tweet seeking action against NBC puts Ajit Pai under pressure

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Pai faced criticism over his position on net neutrality and his attempts to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Indian American chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Ajit Pai is under pressure after President Donald Trump tweeted that he would seek action against NBC and other networks.  As the president is checking the possibility of revoking the license of NBC, Pai is facing pressure to choose between his stand on freedom of speech and supporting Trump.

FCC is the independent government body that regulates radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications

The discussions surrounding the president’s attempt to mute the press gathered momentum last week when Trump tweeted: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

Earlier, Trump had slammed NBC news after they reported that he had sought a tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal, calling it “pure fiction, made up to demean.” NBC report stating that secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has called the president a “moron” has also provoked Trump.

Now, it is Pai’s turn to take a public position on the issue. “Ajit is in a really very awkward situation, but I assure you he is on our side — we being the people who generally believe in free speech,” Berin Szóka, president of libertarian group TechFreedom, which supports Pai’s FCC agenda, told Politico. “I think it’s unfair to jump up and down and insist that if he doesn’t pick a fight with the president, he doesn’t really care about the First Amendment.”

A long-time supporter of freedom of the press, Pai is facing immense pressure for making his stand public. The Democrats have clearly indicated that they won’t let the issue die very soon. FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a television program that “history won’t be kind to silence” on Trump’s threats to the freedom of the press.

Senator Sidney Blumenthal, a Democrat, wrote a letter to Pai on Monday asking him to commit in writing that he won’t revoke any broadcast license. “I ask you to commit in writing that you will not vote against any broadcast license renewal application in a manner that is inconsistent with the First Amendment (of the American constitution that protects freedom of speech),” Blumenthal wrote in the letter.

If Pai reaffirms his commitment to freedom of speech, he is likely to face the ire of the president like other Trump appointees such as National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Pai, whose term was supposed to end later this year, was reappointed for another term after the Senate approved his nomination. The Indian American was appointed by Trump as the chairman of FCC after the Democratic nominee Tom Wheeler demitted the office earlier this year.

His tenure with the FCC as a commissioner received a one-year extension in July 2016, giving him an opportunity to become the FCC Chairman.

During the beginning of his tenure as FCC Chairman, Pai faced criticism over his position on net neutrality and his attempts to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

As a commissioner of FCC, Pai had opposed its approach to net neutrality. He declared publicly that though he supports a set of net neutrality principles, he is against the 2015 Open Internet Order.