Cofek open letter to The Standard Group CEO Mr Sam Shollei on why we do not agree with “Captains of Industry” advertorial honours and process

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Dear Sir: We trust our letter finds you well and in high spirits. First, we greatly appreciate the cordial relations we enjoy between “The Standard Group” and other media houses. 

As you will recall, we have objectively supported you and other media houses on the contentious media law as well as digital migration. That SG is our corporate benefactor speaks volumes about our existing partnership. 

But on the The Standard  56-page “Captains of the Industry” campaign which ran on May 22, 2014, we beg to respectably differ on the credibility of the same. 

In our view, the campaign holds tremendous potential to contravene Article 46(1)(b) of the Constitution and gives false representation on a number of persons contrary to provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2012. 

This can be confirmed generally within Section 12 and specifically under Section 12(n) which reads “a representation using exaggeration, innuendo or ambiguity as to a material fact or failing to state a material fact if such use or failure deceives or tends to deceive” especially noting that the so-called “captains of the industry” are not authenticated by a credible and independent third party audit firm. 

Again, the process is open to bias as it is based more on the ability and muscle to pay for the positive exposure rather than the consumer of your news interest to appreciate the challenges and hurdles the so-called “captains of industry” could have overcome to be wherever they are. 

At best, therefore, the one-sided campaign is more about an undue positive exposure without addressing the reverse and giving your consumers the ability to either agree or disagree with you. 

More so, it circumvents the national values stated under Article 10 of the constitution generally and specifically for Article 10(2)(c). 

The campaign has, and without material fact, depicted certain individuals (contrary to their respective known public record and own staff relations) as potentially “visionary”, “successful” or “role models” more than their peers when they are or may not have the semblance of what they are being projected. 

Again, there ought to be a distinction in how you assess the CEO’s in public service and those in private sector. The morality of putting both side by side when majority CEO’s in public service were appointed on political rather than professional basis is questionable.

The indices of comparison and or measurement for such “success” are not clear. 

“The Standard” has not published any material to the effect that it may have made efforts to secure material facts from the competent authority in this case the Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission for instance, on whether or not all such individuals lined up for praise actually meet provisions of Chapter 6, CoK of 2010. 

In rating “success” merely on the basis of profits and ability to advertise, then it is likely to remain non-objective, misleading and deceptive as media houses do not have the requisite technical capacity to determine and put the same on public record. 

In the final analysis, and based on respect earned by “The Standard” all these have the capacity to mislead news consumers. 

It equally gives a fatally wrong impression that the hundreds of men and women doing great jobs behind the scenes and who were not featured in “The Standard” newspaper don’t qualify as “Captains” of their respective industries. 

“The Standard” feature also unfairly raises qualitative public trust and loyalty in such persons and their respective businesses making consumers culpable particularly for those who do not qualify for such honours. It is akin to sanitizing bad leadership for example the case of a Vice Chancellor featured when the University Academic Staff Union view is obviously different.

Clearly, “The Standard” cannot, without credible independent and measurable evidence of corporate and personal credibility performance, declare any person as “visionary” or “Transformative” and publish the same to unsuspecting consumers and especially for mass public consumption without supporting evidence. 

Saying that those honoured are telling their own stories without legibly marking every page as “advertiser’s announcement” is against the consumer law. 

You are not alone. We are aware that your former employer “Daily Nation” is planning a similar campaign. On this basis, and through you sir, we appeal to Media Owners Association to review our concerns. 

We urge media houses to always tread carefully on their first and sacred responsibility to consumers of their news beyond their commercial interests which come second. 

Indeed, it is within the interest of media houses to jealously guard the credibility of such campaigns which obviously fail the test of public confidence. 

Consumers are naturally urged to exercise extreme discretion in believability for example what is on pages 4, 8, 16,19, 21, 28, 31, 32,37, 39, 41, 44 and 46. 

We thank you for taking time to read and do look forward to your kind response. We hope you will publish our letter for your readers to have a view of the same. Congratulations for the good work, on average, you are doing at the SG. Thank you. 

Consumers Federation of Kenya 

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