Dabur faces smear campaign in Nepal

Though a few other Indian joint ventures in Nepal, including PepsiCo, have also faced attacks by some newspapers and television channels in the recent past, Dabur, one of Nepal's biggest revenue earners, has been the subject of systematic smear campaigns by a Nepali tabloid and two television channels.

The campaign started last month with an independent television station Sagarmatha Television carrying a report alleging that cartons of Dabur's Real brand of fruit juices were found to be tainted.

It was joined by the Naya Patrika tabloid, regarded as being close to the Maoists, which carried five front-page articles that also alleged Dabur's honey products to be substandard and containing harmful chemicals and accused Dabur dealers of intimidating the people who complained.

Finally, Thursday night, Kantipur Television aired a "special programme" making the same allegations.

According to Dabur and other Indian joint ventures, besides the turmoil in Nepal, they have to also face extortion by a section of the media who begin writing negative reports if the ventures decline to advertise with the organisations.

The Kantipur group of publications, which also includes two newspapers, had once received regular advertisements for Dabur products.

However, Dabur says the group recently hiked its tariff excessively. Also, it says it aims to advertise with organisations having the highest reach, like the state-run Nepal Television.

Though Dabur issued a public notification pointing out that its products had been cleared by the concerned government agencies of Nepal, the attacks have been snowballing and the government agency reports have been stonily ignored.

The concerted campaigns caused the Indian Embassy to issue a statement Friday. "Past allegations of this nature have been found to be false after thorough investigation by Nepal government agencies," it said. "The Indian JVs have informed the Embassy that they have been approached by such media houses for release of advertisements and are being threatened with negative publicity if those requests are not met."

The embassy said that the Indian JVs make a substantial contribution to Nepal's economy, employment, revenue to the government and exports from Nepal.

"They maintain the highest standards of quality, which is proved by the fact that exports of their products are accepted across the globe," the statement said.

"These companies are the pride of Nepal and a symbol of close relations between India and Nepal. The baseless adverse publicity against the products of such joint ventures will not only hit the Nepalese economy and exports but will also deter new foreign direct investments into Nepal."

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