Presidential Election 2019 Media Communiqué, 25th October 2019
Colombo, Sri Lanka
During the 36 days which have elapsed since the announcement of the presidential election of Sri Lanka, CMEV has recorded 464 verified incidents of election law violations. The highest number of incidents have been reported from Western and Southern provinces. Among those complaints 198 incidents were reported against New Democratic Front (NDF) and 186 incidents against the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). It is critical to observe that around 16 incidents of violence including assault and threats have been reported thus far.
The following are some of the trends that have been observed over the last seven days in relation to the pre-election period:
Governors of several provinces have been involved in presidential election campaigns in support of candidates while misusing state resources for campaigning
Provincial governors have been involved in campaigning promoting presidential candidates while serving as the representatives of President and chairing Provincial Public Service Commission. A.J.M Musammil, Peshala Jayarathna and Hemal Gunasekara, serving as the governors of Western, North Western and Southern Provinces respectively, are misusing resources belonging to their respective Provincial Councils to promote the SLPP candidate.
Incidents relating to threats and assaults
Particular attention should be given to the critical situation where numerous politicians have threatened and used verbal abuse against supporters of opposition parties. This has occurred especially at the regional level.
Usage of social media during the pre- election period.
It is difficult to ignore the fact that the authorities of Facebook have not been proactive in promptly responding to the measures taken by the Election Commission in curbing the spread of hate speech and disinformation. This is in spite of social media networks such as Facebook playing a critical role in disseminating information pertaining to elections. CMEV has closely observed the negative direction towards which the contributions of social media networks such as Facebook is headed. This is despite their potential to be immensely instrumental in the progress of the electoral process of Sri Lanka. CMEV believes that a broader social discourse must be created around Facebook’s reliance on the community standards set out by their own institution. Facebook’s inconsistencies in applying the standards and failure to deal with the language complexities in Sri Lanka is greatly exacerbating the spread of hate speech and misinformation during the election. This is crucial particularly in because Sri Lanka is moving towards a period where several elections are to be held within a close period.
Accordingly, CMEV is in the process of compiling a comprehensive report on the role that has been adopted by social media institutions in light of the upcoming presidential election. This report will be published by the end of the presidential election.
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