Exiled journalists condemn state media abuse in presidential election campaign

[TamilNet, Saturday, 23 January 2010, 11:38 GMT]
Journalists for Democracy (JDS), a Germany-based media advocacy group consisting of members exiled from Sri Lanka on Saturday warned that the withdrawal of the competent authority appointed to monitor state media during the pre-election period was a clear indication of the inability of the nominally democratic institutions to restrain the ruling party practice of using every weapon in its arsenal to bring down democracy in Sri Lanka. With only a couple of days to go, JDS is afraid that the multitude of unfavourable developments, including the inability of institutions set up to guarantee fairness to citizens in Sri Lanka, will lead to an election where democracy and free expression will become an inevitable casualties.

Full text of the JDS statement follows:

Sri Lanka: Democracy and free expression in peril

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) warns that withdrawing the competent authority appointed to monitor state media during the pre-election period is a clear indication of the inability of the nominally democratic institutions to restrain the ruling party practice of using every weapon in its arsenal to bring down democracy.

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake, earlier nominated Jayampathy Hettiarachchi as the competent authority in the wake of complaints by political and civil organisations on state media abuse in the run up to the presidential election. However, it is reported that the nomination has been withdrawn even before the letter of appointment has been handed over.

Reminiscent of past elections under every regime where state media was always used as a propaganda tool of the incumbent regime, every state media outlet this time too was utilized to support the campaign of President Rajapaksa and discredit those challenging him. Courts the elections commissioner and who is in charge of an operation and the watchdogs have failed to keep that abuse in check during supposedly one of the largest democratic exercises in Sri Lanka.

This clearly demonstrates that the present state or its media set up does not tolerate a semblance of democratic practice even during an election where every adult should have the right of free and fair opportunity to express their political preference.

It should be recalled that this obstacles against free political expression is erected in a country where tens of thousands Tamils made destitute by a war and thousands more locked under draconian anti terrorist laws are made incapable of casting their vote.

With only a couple of days to go, JDS is afraid that the multitude of unfavourable developments, including the inability of institutions set up to guarantee fairness to citizens in Sri Lanka, will lead to an election where democracy and free expression will become an inevitable casualties.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

 

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