Polls chief warns of court action against media
Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake has warned the media they may face charges of contempt before the Supreme Court if they do not follow the 21-point guidelines given by him.
In a notice issued to both the print and the electronic media in relation to the general elections, Mr. Dissanyake has drawn reference to the Supreme Court ruling of last year. The court directed all media institutions to comply with the guidelines issued by the Department “in the interest of justice and in order to ensure a free and fair election”.
“Any media institution that contravenes the order of the Supreme Court may face the charge of contempt of court,” the Commissioner says in the notice
Three separate petitions were filed in the run-up to January’s presidential election including one by the opposition chief candidate Sarath Fonseka, seeking mandatory adherence to the Election Commissioner’s guidelines by all media institutions, particularly the state media.
The 21-point guidelines are similar to those issued for the recent presidential election. They call for balanced reporting on election-related news, including a right of reply to opposing political parties.
Meanwhile, elections officials are faced with the daunting task of allocating numbers and symbol for 7,620 candidates who will be contesting the April 8 General Elections with a large number of independent groups from the north and east also handing in nominations.
In the Ampara district where 48 independent groups have handed in nominations along with 18 different political parties, the Department has had to gazette at least 25 new symbols to accommodate the independent groups on the ballot paper, officials said.
A total of 301 independent groups are contesting the poll. Of them 114 are from five electoral districts in the north and east namely Digamadulla (48), Batticaloa (28), Trincomalee (14), Jaffna (12) and Wanni (12).In addition, 36 political parties are also in the fray, the largest number of 22 contesting in the Colombo district, 18 in the Digamadula district and 17 each in the Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts.
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