The Health Ministry has called on broadcast authorities to crack down on traditional clinics suspected of misleading advertising, as revelations emerge that controversial TV spots for a well-known clinic were never approved by censors.
Agus Purwadianto, the minister’s assistant for health technology, said on Wednesday that the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) needed to impose “repressive sanctions” against such advertisers because they had “endangered public safety.”
“The Health Ministry also urges law enforcement institutions to get involved if necessary, because these advertisements have gone over the top,” he said.
He added the ministry had received several complaints about commercials for treatments guaranteeing full recovery from illnesses such as cancer. Such unfounded claims, Agus said, were a violation of a 2010 degree on public service announcements and a threat to public health.
The decree prohibits health care commercials from touting prices or discounts, or using patient testimonials.
“These ads have been broadcast so frequently that people are beginning to think they’re true,” he said.
“If they’re found to be endangering public health, then [the KPI] must cancel their advertising contracts.”
The ministry’s call comes in the wake of calls by doctors for commercials by traditional clinics, notably the Tong Fang traditional Chinese medicine outlet, to be stopped for misleading advertising.
The clinic’s commercials include testimonials from people claiming to have been cured of a variety of illnesses, ranging from prostate cancer to kidney failure.
Ezki Suyanto, deputy chairman of the KPI, revealed on Wednesday that the commercials had never gone before the Film Censorship Board (LSF).
He said that meant that they had been broadcast by six television stations without the proper approval.
Nina Muthmainah, a KPI commissioner, said all six broadcasters had been admonished by the commission for carrying the commercials. She said they were also ordered to edit the commercials properly if they planned to keep airing them.
Tong Fang and other clinics accused of misleading advertising could not be reached for contact by the Jakarta Globe.