The govt should make its position clear about the agency's latest notice that goes against the interest of the print media

It is ridiculous that the Advertisement Board has imposed a ban on placing or running advertisements related to alcoholic beverage even in the print media, which generate a large part of their revenue from such products for their survival. The Media Society and alcoholic beverage producing firms have condemned the ban, saying that it was a ploy to rein in the print media, which is critical of the government's wrongdoings. Although the electronic media, especially television channels, are not allowed to run ads related to liquor and tobacco products, the print media have till now been allowed to run or place liquor-related ads, considering their importance in disseminating information to the public. Citing a provision of the Public Health Service Act, the Board, just three days after the Tihar festival, issued a notice stating that it would take action against anyone who ran or placed alcoholic beverage ads in any media outlet.

The Advertisement Association of Nepal has also condemned the Board's move, saying that prohibiting media outlets from running liquor ads was "another blow to the pandemic-hit media industry that was slowly reviving". The liquor industry has been generating revenue to the tune of billions of rupees for the government while also creating employment to thousands of people within the country.

Alcohol beverage producers' argument is that if the government deems liquor is harmful to public health, it should also completely ban its production, sales, distribution and import. If it does so, the government will lose billions of rupees in revenue. Such a ban will not only affect the media industry, which is already struggling for its survival due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the liquor industry will also be hit hard as a result of such a senseless ban.

Every product needs to be advertised to promote its business and inform the public about its quality. Even the World Health Organisation has not termed alcohol beverage 'harmful' to public health as it has about tobacco products. The only thing is one should consume liquor responsibly or within the permissible limit.

What is true is that about 30 per cent of the print media's revenue comes from alcohol ads. If the ban on liquor ads in the print media comes into force, none of the major media outlets will survive, and thousands of working journalists and other employees will be out of their jobs. Banning liquor ads in the print media also violates the consumers' right to information. Nowhere in the world is the print media prohibited from running liquor ads. In this case, the government should make its position clear regarding the agency's latest notice. The Board must roll back its decision that goes against the very interest of the print media, which cannot survive without ads from the liquor industry. On the other hand, the Public Health Service Act, enacted three years ago, has flaws, which needs to be amended in the larger interest of the media and the public. One of the major flaws the Act has is it bars the public from getting the right information from the mass media about a product to be produced, imported or sold as per the law of the land.

Landslide study

Floods and landslides are recurring phenomena, especially after heavy rains during the monsoon season, causing heavy loss of life and property year after year. But landslides are triggered not only by heavy rains but also earthquakes, as a new study reveals.

The big earthquake of 2015 in Nepal is said to have caused thousands of landslides, which caused additional destruction to communities, and also prompted more landslides in the subsequent monsoon at steeper and higher hill slopes than in average years. The study, carried out by scientists from two British universities, used database of almost 13,000 monsoon-triggered landslides over 30 years, which included extreme events like storms, the 2015 earthquake and floods.

While we cannot prevent natural calamities, we can, however, mitigate their impact to prevent loss of lives and property. The data from the study could be used to develop accurate landslide models that help save lives. Landlsides and floods apart, with climate change a reality now, we will also be facing extreme weather conditions in the years to come, which will demand proper planning and safety measures so that the people can face any adverse situation.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.