Election chief censors state TV ahead of polls

Election Commission has said it will censor the political coverage of a state-owned TV station after accusing it of bias against the former president’s brother, who is running in the country’s upcoming presidential election, the AFP reported.

The unprecedented move came after the Independent Television Network (ITN) aired a programme alleging loyalists to the previous government had thwarted a corruption probe into the family of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The channel will be banned from showing political content from Monday without the commission’s approval, chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.

“ITN cannot broadcast any political content without clearing with the Election Commission until the conclusion of the election on November 16,” said a letter sent from Deshapriya to the network late on Saturday and seen by AFP news agency.

The letter also said that any live events filmed by the station must be shown to the commission for approval before being transmitted.

It is the first time that a Sri Lankan election chief has censored a TV station.

The commission said it had received many complaints about other channels campaigning for Rajapaksa without declaring their bias, but could not take action as these were all private networks.

The election has attracted a record 35 candidates, with nearly 16 million people eligible to vote. Last week, the commission said it was working with Facebook to take down posts that defamed election candidates.

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