A smear campaign started by a section of Nepali media against Indian joint venture (JV) companies has intensified with the Indian Embassy also being targeted.
Led by Kantipur Group that has interests in newspapers, radio and television, some other media associations are now seeking an apology from the embassy for trying to protect interests of Indian JVs.
The campaign started in May, when Sagarmatha TV, Naya Patrika and Kantipur Group started carrying reports questioning the quality of products made by Indian companies in Nepal.
The main target was Dabur Nepal, an independent unit of Dabur set up in 1989, and the juices manufactured by it under the brand name Real.
The group’s refusal to give advertisements to these media groups and bow down to their blackmailing tactics is stated to be the reason behind the campaign.
Despite clearance given by the department of food and technology that products made by Dabur met all quality norms, the smear campaign, continued.
“We maintain the best standards and our juice plant is the seventh best in the world. But such negative campaign is bound to affect us,” said a senior manager of the company.
The group complained to the Press Council of Nepal against the media houses and placed public notices in newspapers to rebut the allegations.
When this too failed, the Indian Embassy issued a release last week expressing concern at such “negative publicity” and urging authorities to take action against these “unethical practices”.
But terming the statement as an affront to entire Nepali media, Kantipur Group intensified its campaign and demanded an apology from the embassy.
It was supported by four media associations—one of which is headed by the group’s chairman.
“The embassy was surprised by the reaction of some media associations to genuine concerns expressed by it,” said Indian Embassy spokesperson Apoorva Srivastava.
Worried at the developments, Dabur Nepal has written to the Ministry of Commerce “seeking help for continuation of business in Nepal”.
Some feel the smear campaign coupled with political instability will have an adverse impact on prospective investments by Indian companies in Nepal.
“Indian businesses in Nepal are already suffering and new ventures are also wary of investment,” said KV Rajan, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal.