EC ban on ITN programmes lifted

The Election Commission yesterday withdrew the ban on live political programmes by the State-owned Independent Television Network (ITN) network admitting that such a move that is applicable to only one media network was deemed unreasonable.

The letter informing the ban was issued on Friday by Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya. The ITN was asked to suspend with effect from Monday all live political discussions, debates and forums until the results of the Presidential polls are announced. The ITN was asked to pre-record such programmes and seek the prior approval of the Election Commission before telecast.

The reason, Deshapriya said in his letter, was that the Commission has received a complaint that a live political programme titled “Seethala Eeethala” telecast on October 30, to which Additional Solicitor General Wasantha Navaratne Bandara participated, had caused duress to Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Presidential Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

This directive of the Election Commission came under heavy criticism by media activists.

Deshapriya issued a fresh letter stating that the ban, which was to be effective from Monday, was lifted considering the submissions sent by various groups and individuals.

He said that some had pointed out that imposing an embargo only on one particular media network could be regarded as deferential treatment. However, the Chairman in his letter had stressed the need to adhere to media guidelines issued by the Commission in all its future programmes.

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