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Sunday, 23 August 2015

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Election monitors say:

State media neutral and responsible

The State-media received the appreciation of local election monitoring groups.

Shan Wijethunge, Senior Manager Advocacy, Communications and PR, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said, "The State-owned media's approach was significantly different from their performance during the January presidential election.

There was a marked improvement," Wijethunge said, adding that the lion's share of media coverage went to the ruling United National Front (UNF), which was not a healthy trend.

Manjula Gajanayake, National Co-ordinator, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), the poll monitoring arm of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), said "After two decades, the State media tried to be balanced and unbiased. However, there is room for improvement," he said.

The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (ANCL) are still giving a higher percentage of publicity to the incumbent party.

This time, we observed that the State-owned media has given 65 percent coverage to the governing party and 35 percent to the opposition," said Wijethunge.

He further said the State media should be neutral and should give equal coverage to the ruling party and the opposition.

However, both monitoring groups noted with appreciation that there was an improvement in the media coverage - both in content and distribution - compared to 95% of coverage dedicated to the ruling party during the past decade or more.

"Clearly, some changes have taken place within the media houses.

However, much needs to be done to ensure that the State media acts in an equitable manner," Wijethunge said.

According to the election reporting analysis by the TISL, Wijethunge said: "The State-run media clearly favoured three or four major political parties but provided little space ad airtime to small parties.

There were 22 political parties in the fray but only about four main parties received publicity through the State operated media houses. The expectation from a State-run media operation is equal treatment for all political parties, not a select few," Wijethunge added.

He also noted that from the style of reporting, it was evident that the once shackled state media groups were free to dabble in coverage.

"It seemed that journalists were free to do their job." Meanwhile, CMEV's National Co-ordinator, Manjula Gajanayake said: "We are satisfied with the conduct of the State-run media during the Parliamentary Election 2015.

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