Daily FT’s Political and International News Special Correspondent and Guest Columnist Senior Journalist Charnika Imbulana Munasinghe is among 12 journalist selected from around the world for the 2016 US presidential elections special seminar and reportage.
This will grant Munasinghe - the only Sri Lankan journalist to be chosen - unprecedented and exclusive access to report before, during and after the US presidential election from key states.
This highly competitive professional study and reporting tour, designed for top working print and broadcast journalists, will have unique access to important organisations and constituencies, coordinated meetings and visits that will provide the chosen journalists with an extensive knowledge and understanding of the US election process, policy issues and American voter attitudes, thereby widely enhancing a journalist’s coverage of the US presidential elections to audiences back home.
This scholarship is awarded to a selected 12 from the world by the East-West Center (EWC). Also known as the Center for Cultural and Technical Interchange between East and West, EWC is a renowned education and research organisation established by the US Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific and the United States. This unique program for journalists maximises the EWC experience in designing media programs.
The countries of selected participant journalists and the respective media organisations they serve support this unique program in honour of the selection and golden opportunity of exclusive reportage from which their respective countries will benefit. The exceptional experience their journalists derive from it will enrich these professionals to better serve their own countries upon their return.
Munasinghe is a veteran journalist with 30 years’ experience as a reporter and subeditor at the now defunct Sun newspapers under the guidance of its eminent Editor Rex de Silva. She was later handpicked by yet another illustrious Editor Vijitha Yapa upon the launch of The Island newspaper and appointed to the position of World News Editor and Business News Subeditor. She handled more responsibilities in the ensuing years and was made Women’s Editor of the Daily Island newspaper.
Renowned career journalist Gamini Weerakoon, who later took over editorship of The Island, gave her additional responsibilities and she helped launch of The Island’s Saturday Magazine, which she oversaw as Features Section Head.
She was also awarded a scholarship to the International Institute for Journalism in what was then West Germany.
Munasinghe has served the Daily Mirror newspaper of the Wijeya Group, the sister paper of the Daily FT, as International News Editor.
She has interviewed world leaders including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. She was also granted an exclusive print and web interview with former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed during her tenure at the Wijeya Group.
She has been given country exclusive on-the-spot coverage for many major world events as a Special Correspondent for both Government and private newspapers, namely The Island, Daily News and Wijeya publications for the coverage of the historic reunification of Germany, the Hong Kong Handover and the Macau Handover.
German Technical Corporation (GTZ), for which she worked as a media consultant, selected her to be the sole Sri Lankan participant at the World Media Forum held in Bonn in 2008.
She has also worked at ICRC and ICEI, an Italian International service organisation promoting organic agriculture to underprivileged communities, and was appointed through the UNHCR as media consultant to the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Refugees.
Munasinghe launched a print media campaign on the prevention of dengue, in which she highlighted WHO and Health Ministry (which President Maithripala Sirisena headed as Health Minister) action against the disease. With the coordination of UNICEF and Rotary International, she produced and facilitated the telecast of TV programs in support of immunisation work towards the total eradication of polio.
Last year she attended the Silver Jubilee of the German Reunification in Bonn and Berlin and was in Geneva during the UN’s 70-year celebrations.
Most recently, Munasinghe represented Daily FT at the G7 Summit in Japan and was a member of the Presidential Media Delegation to the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris and CHOGM in Malta, where she was the nominee of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Sri Lanka, representing them as a delegate at the first Women’s Forum held on the sidelines of CHOGM.
A recipient of a Rotary International scholarship, Munasinghe has a Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations. She is also the Founder and Convener of the Women’s Forum - Sri Lanka, which works towards the empowerment of women. She writes under the surnames of Imbulana and Munasinghe and has produced, directed and presented 22 documentaries telecast on both Government and private local television stations.
The 2016 US Presidential election, in particular, is likely to be both historic and significant in ways not seen since 1964. It will deeply impact foreign policy and thus will be keenly followed by the world, and as all indications show, much unprecedented interest has already been generated in Sri Lanka.
The 12 journalists in Washington, DC will meet with top Government officials, analysts and other journalists to discuss the impact of the 2016 election on international trade agreements and political security relations between the US and those countries represented by the participating journalists.
In addition, the visits to the two swing state cities of North Carolina and Ohio will provide the journalists with an opportunity to explore key election issues such as the domestic economy, globalisation and international trade, foreign engagement, immigration, growing economic inequality, social change and racial and religious identity. The journalists will also have multiple opportunities to observe the 2016 presidential election taking place via election rallies and grassroots campaigning.
Both nominated presidential candidates will represent a first in the event they are elected as President. Hillary Clinton could be the first female president and Donald Trump the first President with no political or military experience.
The US presidential election is also likely to draw record voter turnout as growing discontent with the establishment mobilises young voters and those typically unengaged. Trump’s nomination also marks only the third time in US history that an outsider has succeeded in the hostile takeover of a political party. The two previous successful hostile takeovers were mounted by former U S Congressman William Jennings Bryan (D) in 1896 and by US Senator Barry Goldwater (R) in 1964.
The immediate impact of those two takeovers was a massive defeat for their party but more importantly, each had long-term consequences for the American political party and electoral system.
The East-West Center’s 2016 US presidential election special program for working journalists will examine the institutions and social forces that have led to this historic and critical moment in the American political system.
On 8 November, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new President and Vice-President, 33 Senators, 435 House Representatives, 12 Governors and a host of other local offices. Out of 538 total electoral votes, only 270 are needed to win. Of those 538 votes, swings states - also called purple states or battleground states - hold 85 electoral votes and represent where the US presidential election is fought and decided.
The 8 November election day program will include an in-depth look at the vote counting process, observing US voters cast their ballots at a polling station and watching the election night results with US voters and party activists at the election night gatherings of the State Republican Party and the State Democratic Party.
Following the election, the Washington, DC program will also analyse the long-term impact of the 2016 presidential election on the American political party and electoral system. The journalists will engage in a facilitated debriefing session in Washington, DC to review their study tour experiences as well as the role of social and traditional media in covering the 2016 election and bringing back with them a wealth of experience that could be adopted or applied to their own countries as they make their final analysis of this prestigious program.