Commissioner issues guidelines for electronic media in upcoming elections
Commissioner of Elections Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday, March 9, issued
comprehensive guidelines to be followed by all electronic media - both State
and Private - on coverage of the current Parliamentary elections.
18-point guidelines have been issued to ensure balance and impartiality in
their reporting and prevent discrimination against any political party,
candidate or party leader in granting access to airtime.
Commissioner of Elections has issued these guidelines after a meeting with
the Ministry of Information Secretary, Tilak Ranaviraja, February 11, with
regard to broadcasting of programs relating to the upcoming April 2
elections, over electronic media.
full text of the guideline issued by the Commissioner of Elections:
virtue of the powers vested in me under Article 104B(5) of the Constitution,
the following guidelines are issued to all broadcasting and telecasting
operators to follow these guidelines in order to ensure a free and fair
All telecasting and broadcasting media shall be balanced and impartial in
their election reporting and shall not discriminate against any political
party, candidate or political party leaders in granting access to airtime.
All heads of broadcasting and telecasting institutions should ensure that
the broadcast and telecast of election programs shall not be interfered with
by the Minister or any other outside political interference, unless a
restraint becomes absolutely necessary to prevent substantial harm to a
legitimate interest, such as an act of violence.
any event, such restraint shall not be in contravention of the rule
stipulating impartiality and fairness in pursuance of these guidelines. Any
decision of the broadcasting or telecasting institution to restrain any
program, shall be notified immediately to the Commissioner of Elections
promptly with all relevant material to justify such decision.
All media institutions shall provide accurate, balanced and impartial
information in their news bulletins and current affairs.
Owing to the potential for editorial opinion to be confused and biased,
electronic media are urged not to broadcast editorial opinions. However, if
editorial opinion is permitted for any reason whatsoever, it is obliged also
to broadcast and telecast opinions to the contrary as well.
News coverage of press conferences and public statements concerning
political controversy called or made by the Head of the Government,
Ministers, members of the ruling party shall be subject to a right to reply
with equal time by political parties opposing them.
It is obligatory on the part of the news department and current affairs
section (or any similar section) of each institution not to air any program
during the campaign period, unless the contents of the program are balanced.
If any material is broadcast covering an incident or event with any comment
or contribution from any political party or candidate or a person concerned
with a political party, all other political parties that have any interest
or are concerned or are likely to be affected should also be given coverage
in the same news item or programme.
Any documentary program or special programs that are broadcast during
campaign period should disclose the names of the script writer, announcer
and the editor.
Air time of any program or news bulletin should not be utilised for
unsubstantiated allegations against candidates or political parties or
political leaders until the election is concluded. However, if any
allegations of any nature are made against a candidate, political party or
political leader such party or person should be given equal time and
prominence to counter such allegations.
All institutions shall act carefully and diligently in airing non election
news such as coverage of official functions and crimes. No coverage should
be given for any candidate whether such a candidate holds a position of a
minister or other officer during the campaign.
Coverage of President and the Prime Minister should be treated as a coverage
given for the political party to which he or she belongs and therefore
leaders of major political parties contesting elections should be given
equal coverage in all programs.
All electronic media institutions should act fairly in selecting
participants for panel discussions and as such, the composition of a
discussion should be balanced.
All phone-in programmes should have fair opportunities for all callers
irrespective of the content of their questions and contributions. Officers
handling such technical aspects of phone in programmes should be answerable
for such balanced phone in programmes.
If any Chairperson, Member of the Boards or employees of any electronic
media institution actively engages in political involvement, such
involvement causes conflicts of interest in balance broadcasting. Hence, the
management shall be informed of the following in writing in respect of such
The level of involvement of such person.
The nature and level of such person's employment.
Extent of involvement in programme making.
If an individual (employee or any member of the board of the broadcasting or
telecasting institution) publicly identified as a candidate or prospective
candidate for the parliamentary or any other election or holding an office
in a political party, such person should withdraw from journalistic
functions until the election is concluded and shall not be permitted to
engage in any journalistic function at the broadcasting or telecasting
management must consider the implications for individuals involved in
presentation and who are or might become known to the public.
When a person refuses to participate in a discussion or interview and choose
not to offer reasons for absence, the electronic media institution shall
respect that position. Dramatic devices such as an empty chair in television
should not be employed to underline a refusal but it is encouraged to employ
a simple and direct announcement in that instance.
No election related programme or any other programme which has an effect of
political propaganda for and against any party, candidate or political
leader, shall be broadcast or telecast during the two days preceding the
the event of any other election (Provincial Council, Local Authorities,
Presidential, or Referendum) are also declared during the period of
campaigning, this rule continues to be effective notwithstanding the
declaration of any such election and campaign black out period of the
general election should be strictly observed.
The attention of the Chairpersons of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation
and Sri Lanka Rupavahini is drawn to Article 104B(5)(b) of the Constitution,
which requires them to take all steps necessary to ensure compliance with
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Date: March 10, 2004 -