Election monitor: ‘unable to track campaign foreign funding’ | Daily News


Election monitor: ‘unable to track campaign foreign funding’

TV coverages biased
‘TV broadcast frequencies are public property’

The estimated cost of print and electronic media advertising of NDF Candidate Sajith Premadasa and SLPP Candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa collectively over the past two weeks alone has exceeded Rs 169 million, the elections watchdog Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has disclosed.

The first report on monitoring election campaign finances of the 35 candidates contesting Presidential Election 2019 will be released tomorrow (23), the CMEV’s National Coordinator Manjula Gajanayake announced on Sunday. Speaking at a workshop for journalists on election reporting organized by Internews on Sunday, Gajanayake said the CMEV would thereafter update the report weekly.

The CMEV has initiated a process to track the election expenses of candidates with a campaign finance tracking tool. Attorney-at-Law Thusitha Siriwardena of the CMEV explaining the monitoring methodology said that the cost calculation of print and electronic media advertisements, social media advertisements and ground level campaigning costs such as spending on rallies, pocket meetings and house to house propaganda was being handled by a well-equipped monitoring unit consisting of a dedicated staff. The daily expenses of the candidates are entered into a specifically designed database.

“This monitoring process captures the tip of the iceberg and hidden expenses are immeasurable. We cannot track the foreign funds being channelled to the candidates’ campaigns. We find it difficult to capture the unlimited spending in social media due to the absence of technically reliable tools. We have also not gone into tracking the sources of the funds spent. This entire exercise is a cumbersome task, but we are making an effort as we believe that the startling revelations coming out of this will help to push the much-needed Campaign Finance Legislation, which is still in the labour room,” he said.

He further said that TV media bias in allocating time for different candidates could be observed, adding that all these hinder a level-playing field for candidates.

Gajanayake said that the CMEV expects to spend Rs 60 million for monitoring of the forthcoming Presidential Election, and that Rs 7 million of it would be spent for the campaign financing monitoring.

He said CMEV have deployed teams to monitor election rallies and instances of offering election handouts to the voters.

He said the final report of cost calculation of the 35 candidates’ campaign finances would be released in December after analyzing the data.

He said the Right to Information Act would be utilized to obtain official figures from the private TV channels as their frequencies are a public property. He said the CMEV hope to monitor the mainstream media and continue the campaign finance tracking in a more structured manner at the next General Elections.

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