Thursday, 31 October 2013

A boost for media freedom

Freedom of speech and freedom of choice are fundamental human rights that should be enjoyed by every man.  In a democratic society, we also expect media independence and press freedom. Freedom of the press means freedom of communication and expression through mediums including various electronic media and published materials. Logically, this includes the right to a permit to print.

Indeed, freedom of the press is also about property rights. These properties are printing presses, auditoriums, billboards, radio equipment, computer networks and so on. “Property rights” is a necessary condition for market economies to work.

Yesterday’s Court of Appeal decision rejecting the government's appeal against the High Court ruling that publishing a newspaper is a right, not a privilege, is commendable.  The consistent decision delivered by both the High Court and Court of Appeal is a move in the right direction.

Intervening in the application for a publishing permit on the basis of limiting competition is a flawed argument.  Monopolistic behaviour will only breed inefficiencies and deprive the public from the freedom of choice, and in this context, the access to more print options. It is also inconsistent with the new Competition Act. 

Media owners should be given the right to compete on a level playing field. Let the newspaper fend for its own survival. It is time to stop protecting status quo and embrace a more inclusive economic and social policy for the sake of the country.

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