Compelling media houses to divulge sources of their information as well as back away from double ownership of media outlets as enacted in Kenya’s Media Bill 2007 is distasteful and detrimental to entrepreneurship. If it is true that the impetus behind the bill is “reprisal” from legislators whose actions have been exposed by the media, sanctioning it is catering for special interest groups without putting the long term in perspective.
Faced with problems that elicit public concern, governments are quick to pass restrictive legislation that may appear worthy and designed to protect the public. Legislation may be in the form of an official secrets act, twisting national security laws or “libel and defamation" laws whose fuzzy definitions limit the freedom of expression and legitimate criticism of wrongdoing. In the long run, a huge edifice involving massive compliance costs for firms and individuals arises, severely hindering entrepreneurship.
Openness has always been a path to development in contrast to isolation that breeds stagnation. Most dynamic regions in history have always been in coastal locations or areas close to towns and cities where there is vigorous exchange of information. Shielding the country from information adversely affects its growth.
It is true that the media acts irresponsibly sometimes. In this regard, the rule of law ought to apply rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ legislation. Media houses ought to exhibit the same fervor they are exhibiting for their survival in disseminating information that will spur business and growth instead of the pet political trivia.
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