A cross-party group of MEPs have called for the uncensored Chinese language broadcaster NTDTV to be put back on air.

The demand follows a move by the Chinese authorities last June to shut down NTDTV's broadcast via the Paris-based satellite carrier Eutelsat.

Critics of the Chinese regime say Beijing did so by applying "political pressure and business interest lures" to Eutelsat.

The MEPs' demand comes a day before Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Brussels for meetings with, among others, commission president José Manuel Barroso and EU foreign affairs supreme Javier Solana.

Several deputies held a news conference in parliament on Wednesday to call for the 'ban' on NTDTV to be lifted.

UK Tory Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice president of the assembly, said he wants the French government to press the Eutelsat to restore the station's broadcasts to China.

He pointed out that recently some 476 MEPs signed a written declaration urging Eutelsat to resume the service.

"The other EU institutions, including the commission and council, should take note of the fact that so many MEPs signed what amounts to a resolution," he said.

"It is unfortunate that Paris succumbed to pressure from the Chinese so the French government and its president Nicolas Sarkozy should also take note of the strength of feeling on this issue.

"The EU has a specific role to play here in putting pressure on the French to restore this vitally important service to the Chinese people."

Italian ALDE deputy Marco Cappato, who also spoke at the news conference, said, "As the west celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, in 2009 China will observe the 50th anniversary of the Chinese communist government's rule in Tibet, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 10th anniversary of the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice.

"This strong contrast highlights the need for information freedom in China.

"Without NTDTV's pioneering work to bring uncensored information to China, the vast majority of the Chinese population will have no access to information commemorating these solemn occasions.

"Since it seized power, the Chinese regime has continuously suppressed media voices that do not toe its political line and last June the regime succeeded in shutting down NTDTV's broadcast by applying political pressure and business interest lures to Eutelsat.

"With the passage of the written declaration on media freedom by a large majority of MEPs, parliament is signalling its will to defend media freedom in China."