Nov 22, Colombo: The Leader of the House, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Chairman of the Select Committee of Parliament to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments stated that an impartial election campaigning is a key factor in free and fair elections.
Many concerns have risen due to the unfair media reporting at present, he noted.
During the election period, the electronic media charge a very high price for election advertisements. He pointed out that this was a serious injustice to certain political parties and politicians.
Several electronic media institutions testified at the committee meeting held on the 20th, in which Mr. Prasad. K. Dodamgodage, Assistant Director of Information in representation of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, said that his media institution would provide equal air time to all candidates during the election period without a charge. A general consensus was needed if there was to be any legal reform for the election campaign, he further stated.
Speaking on behalf of the Independent Television Network (ITN), Deputy General Manager (News) Mr. Sudharman Radaliyagoda said that a single legal framework was needed to be put to affect for both the state and private media in relation to the election campaign. He pointed out that it was important to provide free airtime to candidates through both the state and private media.
Addressing the Committee, parliamentarian Madhura Withanage said that news reporting is not balanced during the election period. The same situation is observed across all media he further added.
Due to the competition among the private media entrepreneurs, various tactics have to be used during the election period. Shehan Baranage, Hiru TV News Director stated testifying before the committee. He said that he would work towards providing equal opportunities for all political parties in his channel’s political programs.
Representatives of Swarnavahini and Derana also testified at this committee.
The Attorney General’s Department should be consulted with regards to the practical implementation of the media criteria issued by the Election Commission, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva stated addressing the committee.
Representatives of the Election Commission stated at the Committee that the media criteria issued by the Election Commission are applicable only to the state media. It was discussed at the Committee meeting that it is important to seek information from the Ministry of Mass Media and Information regarding the implementation of these media criteria.
State Ministers Jeevan Thondaman, Members of Parliament Rauff Hakeem, Sagara Kariyawasam were present at this meeting.
The Secretary to the Select Committee, Deputy Secretary General & Chief of Staff of Parliament Ms. Kushani Rohanadheera stated that the next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee will be held on the 26th.