A welcome advice
THE information ministry’s handout on Sunday, advising media outlets not to ‘publish advertisements of any products, drug items, services, housing plots and flats which were declared illegal’, in a bid to ‘protect people from being cheated’ is indeed welcome. According to a New Age report on Wednesday, the ministry has also asked the relevant authorities to take action against the companies seeking to impress people through attractive advertisements about unauthorised products, especially in health services and real estate development. It may be pertinent to recall that, in December 2011, the High Court banned advertisement of any illegal housing project in print and electronic media and ordered the government to take stern action against such publicity, land-filling and any activity of such projects. Besides, just recently, with publicity and sale of unauthorised housing projects in and around the capital in particular going unabated under the nose of the authorities concerned, the court again issued an order asking the government not to promote such projects. Presumably, the information ministry has become active in response to this order.
It is also important to note that the initiative came against the backdrop of markets and shopping centres being flooded with various counterfeit and substandard products that include foodstuff and drugs. There are also many private entities that provide health or other services in different cities which, in fact, have continued to do a disservice to their subscribers year after year. Hence, there is hardly any reason to differ with the minister when he said the media should check the legality of the products with the relevant authority before publishing any advertisement of them. What is, however, intriguing is that, as an official of the ministry admitted to New Age, the information ministry does not have any list of products that do not have approval of proper authorities. Even the relevant government authorities entitled to give such approval to the products or services do not have any list of companies that sell and advertise unauthorised items. In other words, any media outlet willing to publish advertisement on any product has no option but to depend on the company concerned when it comes to verification of the legality and quality of the product. One could be forgiven thus for suspecting that the initiative may be just a routine exercise.
The government needs to walk the walk, and not just talk, in terms of addressing public concerns like the one in question.
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