Centre for Policy Alternatives on 25 May, 2009

Misreporting of Social Indicator Opinion Poll and the Letter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP – 29th March 2004

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Misreporting of Social Indicator Opinion Poll and theLetter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP

MISREPORTING BY DAILY NEWS OF SOCIAL INDICATOR OPINION POLL

There has been a recent controversy over the reporting by the Daily News of an opinion poll conducted by Social Indicator, the polling unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA). Social Indicator published the poll in the form of a report entitled “The Sri Lankan Voter and the April 2004 Election”, which was released to the media and others on 19 March.

On 20 March the Daily News carried the headline story “Impressive Freedom Alliance lead in independent opinion poll”, which claimed to be reporting the results of this poll. The article however claimed to report on a number of questions and responses to questions which were never asked in the CPA poll. No questions were asked, for instance, on the honesty of the President and the Prime Minister respectively, or which party has more chance to come to power, whereas the Daily News article states that these questions were part of the survey and goes on to provide the “results” of the survey, containing statistical analyses which were not in the CPA report.

The Executive Director of CPA, Dr P Saravanamuttu wrote to the Editor of the Daily News pointing out that the poll had been misreported and listing the inaccuracies in the article. The Daily News responded by stating that their “report was based on a report sent to the Daily News by the CPA” and that they stand by their report. As this did not adequately address CPA’s concerns, Dr Saravanamuttu wrote again to the Editor of the Daily News challenging him to produce the document claimed to be sent to him by CPA on which the article was based. On March 27 under the headline story “Daily News sets the record straight” the newspaper states that the article in question was based on a “loose document consisting of 4 pages divided into two parts titled ‘Snap Poll Results, Phase 1’ (3 pages) and ‘Snap Poll Results Phase 2’ (1 page)” which had been found between the cover page and the first page of the CPA report. The Editor of the Daily News has sent CPA a copy of this 4 page document.

CPA categorically states that this document was never sent as part of the survey, and never was part of the survey conducted by CPA. CPA had not seen this document until it was sent by the Daily News. The 4 page document, produced by the Daily News and attributed to CPA, clearly appears to be a fabrication.

The CPA report was a bound volume consisting of 25 numbered pages, all of which were copyrighted to CPA/Social Indicator with the mark “© Copyright Social Indicator – March 2004”. The report contained an Executive Summary. Any responsible journalist would have been troubled by the idea of basing an article, all the more so a headline story, on an unauthenticated loose leaf document which on the face of it was not attributed to any person or organisation.

CPA has written to Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar as Media Minister requesting that he conduct an independent investigation into this matter.

Letter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP

29th March 2004

Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC M.P.
Minister of Media,

Dear Minister,

DISTORTIONS BY CEYLON DAILY NEWS OF
SOCIAL INDICATOR SURVEY

We the undersigned, members of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), are deeply concerned at the distortions in the coverage of the Lake House Group of newspapers of the survey conducted by Social Indicator, the polling unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which was released to the public on 19 March 2004.

Questions that were not part of the survey questionnaire and responses to such questions were inserted to the CPA/Social Indicator survey as published in the Ceylon Daily News of 20 March 2004. As indicated in the letters sent by the Executive

Centre for Policy Alternatives on 25 May, 2009

Misreporting of Social Indicator Opinion Poll and the Letter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP – 29th March 2004

Categories:
 

There has been a recent controversy over the reporting by the Daily
News of an opinion poll conducted by Social Indicator, the polling
unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA). Social Indicator
published the poll in the form of a report entitled “The Sri
Lankan Voter and the April 2004 Election”, which was released
to the media and others on 19 March.

On
20 March the Daily News carried the headline story “Impressive
Freedom Alliance lead in independent opinion poll”, which
claimed to be reporting the results of this poll. The article however
claimed to report on a number of questions and responses to questions
which were never asked in the CPA poll. No questions were asked,
for instance, on the honesty of the President and the Prime Minister
respectively, or which party has more chance to come to power, whereas
the Daily News article states that these questions were part of
the survey and goes on to provide the “results” of the
survey, containing statistical analyses which were not in the CPA
report.

The
Executive Director of CPA, Dr P Saravanamuttu wrote to the Editor
of the Daily News pointing out that the poll had been misreported
and listing the inaccuracies in the article. The Daily News responded
by stating that their “report was based on a report sent to
the Daily News by the CPA” and that they stand by their report.
As this did not adequately address CPA’s concerns, Dr Saravanamuttu
wrote again to the Editor of the Daily News challenging him to produce
the document claimed to be sent to him by CPA on which the article
was based. On March 27 under the headline story “Daily News
sets the record straight” the newspaper states that the article
in question was based on a “loose document consisting of 4
pages divided into two parts titled ‘Snap Poll Results, Phase
1’ (3 pages) and ‘Snap Poll Results Phase 2’ (1
page)” which had been found between the cover page and the
first page of the CPA report. The Editor of the Daily News has sent
CPA a copy of this 4 page document.

CPA
categorically states that this document was never sent as part of
the survey, and never was part of the survey conducted by CPA. CPA
had not seen this document until it was sent by the Daily News.
The 4 page document, produced by the Daily News and attributed to
CPA, clearly appears to be a fabrication.

The
CPA report was a bound volume consisting of 25 numbered pages, all
of which were copyrighted to CPA/Social Indicator with the mark
“© Copyright Social Indicator – March 2004”.
The report contained an Executive Summary. Any responsible journalist
would have been troubled by the idea of basing an article, all the
more so a headline story, on an unauthenticated loose leaf document
which on the face of it was not attributed to any person or organisation.

CPA
has written to Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar as Media Minister requesting
that he conduct an independent investigation into this matter.


Letter
to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP


29th March 2004

Hon.
Lakshman Kadirgamar PC M.P.
Minister of Media,

Dear
Minister,


DISTORTIONS BY CEYLON DAILY NEWS OF
SOCIAL INDICATOR SURVEY


We the undersigned, members of the Board of Directors of the Centre
for Policy Alternatives (CPA), are deeply concerned at the distortions
in the coverage of the Lake House Group of newspapers of the survey
conducted by Social Indicator, the polling unit of the Centre for
Policy Alternatives, which was released to the public on 19 March
2004.

Questions
that were not part of the survey questionnaire and responses to
such questions were inserted to the CPA/Social Indicator survey
as published in the Ceylon Daily News of 20 March 2004. As indicated
in the letters sent by the Executive Director of CPA, Dr. Paikiasothy
Saravanamuttu to the Editor, Ceylon Daily News on 21 March 2004
and 24 March 2004 (copies attached), the survey did not question
respondents on the honesty of any political leaders, including the
incumbent President and Prime Minister, nor did it contain questions
on “cultural dilution” or a “threat” from
the Church and donor countries. Dr. Saravanamuttu challenged the
Editor to produce evidence of the existence of these questions in
the survey.

To
our astonishment, instead of apologizing for the error and accepting
the explanation of the institution which conducted the survey, the
Editor of the Ceylon Daily News in a letter dated 26 March 2004,
sent to our Executive Director and carried on the front page of
the Ceylon Daily News on 27 March 2004 has made the outrageous claim
that the disputed questions were contained in a “4 page loose
document” “divided into two parts titled “Snap
Poll Results, Phase 1” and “Snap Poll Results Phase
2”. It is significant that the Editor made no reference to
a “4 page loose document” until challenged by Dr. Saravanamutu.

No
4 page loose document was sent as part of the CPA survey report.
The full survey report, including an executive summary, was published
in a bound volume and released to the public, including the media
and other civil society groups and the diplomatic community in that
form.

The
Board of Directors of the Centre for Policy Alternatives is appalled
at this disgusting fabrication of a survey conducted by its polling
unit. We request you, as the Minister in charge of the subject of
Media, to conduct an impartial investigation into how such despicable
journalism could take place in a publicly owned media institution.
We welcomed your assertion, after you assumed duties as the Media
Minister, that public media institutions have special obligations
to uphold standards of professionalism and independence and trust
that you will appreciate the deep concern that we have with respect
to this unprecedented development outlined above.

As
you will no doubt understand, we reserve the right to pursue appropriate
legal remedies in relation to this matter.


Yours sincerely,

[sgd.]
Sunil Bastian
Director
[sgd.]
Sunanda
Deshapriya
Director
[sgd.]
Rohan Edrisinha
Director

[sgd.]
Kethesh Loganathan
Director

[sgd.]
Gowrie Ponniah
Director

[sgd.]
Cyrene Siriwardhana

Director
[sgd.]
Shelton Wanasinghe
Director

[sgd.]
Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Executive Director