Three-year prison term for posting marked ballot paper on social media | Daily News


Elections Commission Chairman warns:

Three-year prison term for posting marked ballot paper on social media

Anybody found guilty of sharing photos of his or her marked ballot paper on social media platforms such as Facebook, would be sentenced to a minimum of three years’ imprisonment, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya warned.

As the postal vote commenced yesterday, Deshapriya said he had already come across instances where public officers had shared the photo of their marked ballot paper on Facebook violating the election laws.

Speaking at a press conference at the Media Centre of the Elections Secretariat in Rajagiriya yesterday, Deshapriya said this practice must stop immediately, adding that it was illegal and that the Commission has issued directives against it. He stressed that action would also be taken against the executive officers in charge of certifying and supervising the postal vote if such instances were reported.

“The Election Commission is ashamed of public servants who commit this offence. We also believe that those supervising their postal vote are not suitable to hold executive posts. If this practice continues, the people may take photos of their marked ballot paper and post them on Facebook even on Election Day. We ask candidates to instruct their supporters to refrain from this wrongdoing,” Deshapriya said.

Commenting on the complaints of media conduct during the election period, Deshapriya said that he had called a special meeting yesterday afternoon with the officials of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.

“If we don’t stop the wrongdoing at least now, the election propaganda and media behaviour of this country would end in disaster before very long and there would be no turning back. Those controlling the state media are trying to give maximum coverage to their preferred candidate, while those controlling the private media organisations are adamant that they could decide on the content as they own the organizations,” he said.

“The media have made inroads into the people’s decision-making. If they canvass for a certain candidate or a party, they must state it publicly, so that consumers have the option to select it or not. The frequencies of private media channels are a public property and the people should come forward for their rights. Why not at least make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission making the Elections Commission a respondent? If so, we would also endorse the same position during the hearing. If we had the power to intervene, we would have done so long ago,” Deshapriya said.

He said an investigation would be held against a state media organisation for conducting a live programme in a biased manner.

Responding to a question by a journalist on the use of serving military and police personnel for election propaganda, Deshapriya said the Commission would issue letters to both SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and NDF Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa for violating the code of conduct.

The letters would be over using the Jaffna ASP and HQI Chief Inspector in Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election propaganda and over using a picture of military personnel in a newspaper advertisement of Sajith Premadasa, ahead of the postal vote.

Commenting on the previous instance of using Army Commander Lt. General Shavendra Silva’s photo in a newspaper advertisement of Rajapaksa, the Chairman said that the SLPP had informed that the advertisement had appeared without the party’s knowledge.

“We are trying to find out who gave this advertisement for publication. The Army Commander has stated that he had no knowledge of it and we are satisfied with his reply letter. We have sought legal advice in this regard,” he said.

Responding to a question about GMOA President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya’s attendance at the launch of the election manifesto of SLPP Presidential candidiate Rajapaksa, Deshapriya said the Commission had written to the Health Ministry Secretary asking to investigate it.

“His attendance at that event was a violation of the Establishment Code. They cannot attend any political meeting. In an attempt to dilute his offence, he asked me whether he could attend similar meetings of the other candidates as well. I told him then he would be committing double offences, and that he could not exonerate himself of his first wrongdoing by committing another. The Police are also investigating on this matter, as there has been a police complaint,” Deshapriya said.

Responding to another question, Deshapriya said he had received complaints about four Governors and that he had written to them asking not to meddle in politics.

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