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Air time given to Prez should be treated as coverage given to UPFA –Polls Chief tells media

In the wake of Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya calling for equal coverage in print and electronic media for all political parties contesting the forthcoming elections to the Eastern, Sabaragamuwa and North-Central Provincial Councils, Rupavahini has invited Opposition political parties for a live political debate on political issues with the focus on the Sept. 8 polls.

After a long absence, the UNP will be represented at a live political programme ‘Vedikawa’ (platform) today (Aug. 13) on Rupavahini. Lakshman Kiriella, MP and Mano Ganeshan have accepted the invitation. However, the JVP has declined to participate in today’s programme. JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath, MP, said that party General Secretary Tilvin Silva was invited for the programme. “We decided not to accept the invitation after being told that General Secretary of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena and UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake weren’t available,” Herath said.

The Polls Chief is of the opinion that when a particular person/party turned down an invitation, the concerned station should not, under any circumstance, leave an empty chair to make a point.

The UPFA will be represented by Minister Dilan Perera and Puttalam District MP Arundika Fernando.

Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganeshan told The Island that he was surprised to receive an invitation from Rupavahini. The DPF and two UPFA constituents, the CWC and UPF are in the fray in the Sabaragamuwa Province comprising Ratnapura and Kegalle districts.

Ganeshan said that that all three parties would contest Ratnapura district on the CWC ticket, whereas only the CWC and UPFF were in the fray in Kegalle.

Polls Chief Deshapriya recently wrote to print and electronic media groups, as regards guidelines, emphasizing the responsibility on their part to provide fair media coverage. Deshapriya also informed Secretaries of all contesting political parties and elections monitoring groups of guidelines.

He said that media coverage given to the President and Prime Minister should be treated as coverage given for political parties hence leaders of other political parties shouldn’t be denied equal treatment. The outspoken official said that both State-run and private media should follow the guidelines. Among the guidelines was one that specifically dealt with media coverage given to President, PM, members of the Cabinet as well as ruling party members. Deshapriya said that statements made by members of the ruling party at press conferences as well as at public meetings concerning political controversy should be subject to right to reply by opposition political parties.

Commenting on panel discussions on television, Deshapriya emphasized that media institutions should be fair in selecting participants for panel discussions.

By Shamindra Ferdinando


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