By Sandun A. Jayasekera
The Elections Commission (EC) would seriously consider taking legal action against a number of leading state and private electronic and print media institutions after the Presidential poll for deliberately violating the election law, media guidelines issued by the EC and abusing media ethics, Chairman, Mahinda Deshapriya said.
He said these media establishments have promoted a single Presidential candidate of their choice and fully backed his election propaganda campaign without giving a fair space in their print material or air time during TV transmission.
Showing a graphic design prepared by the Information Department displaying the air time given to Presidential candidates by eight state and private TV stations at the news briefing held at the Information Department last afternoon, Mr. Deshapriya said two state-owned TV stations and two private TV stations were the biggest abusers of the media guidelines and media ethics. “Out of the eight TV stations, the behaviour of two private and one state TV station was shameful and extremely heinous. Two others are trying to become fair and three others have shown the signs of fairness,” Mr. Deshapriya noted.
The graphic art displayed that one extremely bias private TV station had given 71% of air time to a one single candidate during their prime time News bulletins, 26% to the main rival candidate and 3% to all other 33 candidates. Another extremely partisan private TV station had given 81% of air time to the same candidate and 19% airtime to the main rival candidate and nothing to any other candidate. The state-owned TV station had allocated 64% air time to a particular candidate, 30% to rival candidates and 6% to others. Other TV stations were relatively fair in comparison to the rest, Mr. Deshapriya said.
“If these TV stations, social media platforms and FM stations continue to abuse the freedom they enjoy and violate the guidelines issued to them by the EC even during the grace period, we will not hesitate to de-link them from their frequencies through the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC). We also don’t issue official elections results to them,” Mr. Deshapriya stressed.
Mr. Desharpriya while expressing his pleasure and relief for sharp drop of incidences of serious election related crimes such as shooting, bombing, murders and arson attacks, lamented that the media establishments – print and electronic – have performed extremely negative way at this election.
“I haven’t heard or received complaints on harming of even a nail,” he said. By appealing from all concerned refraining from the promotion of candidates or engaging in propaganda from 12.00 midnight on Wednesday until the election day on Saturday, Mr. Deshapriya said private tuition teachers, and Buddhist monks have also had campaigned for candidates in a very low and indecent manner promoting their candidates.
“Tuition teachers have told students to ask their parents to vote for a particular candidate and monks have used their sermons, poojas and other religious acts as propaganda tools of their candidates. This is extremely disturbing and unhealthy,” he emphasized.
The peaceful, free and fair atmosphere are the collective efforts of the EC, candidates, police and in particular of the peace-loving public, he added.
All election cutouts, streamers, banners, hoardings should have been dismantled after 12.00 midnight yesterday and one office in an electorate and another main office in the district can be maintained until the end of the poll.
Elections-related interviews, talk shows, news, tele-dramas or any other programme promoting candidates are completely banned from last night.
Commenting on the difficulty faced by the EC on recruiting of public servants for election duty, Mr. Deshapriya said almost all the public servants are sick.
“They are suffering not only from HIV / AIDS and rabies. They say they have all other diseases under the sun to skip election duty. Male teachers are the worse to mention. There are extremely dedicated officers. They are devoted to their work when reported for election duty,” Mr. Deshapriya said.