‘Secrecy Bill’ May Just be a Blessing in Disguise

Leon Louw knocks it out the park today in his Business Day column “‘Secrecy bill’ may just be a blessing in disguise”.

He writes:

INSTEAD of being delighted, journalists are squealing like stuck pigs because the Protection of State Information Bill, known as the “secrecy bill”, was passed by the National Council of Provinces. Why aren’t they delighted? Most journalists salivate with glee at every state intervention. Surely they knew their turn would come. Do they really think journalism is a special case? Of course they do. Their mantra that “people have the right to know” is repeated as if it settles the matter.

But people also have the right to food, clothes, healthcare, insurance, liquor, banking, jobs, cigarettes, energy and much more. By logical extension, the media should demand unregulated retailing, medical schemes, insurance, alcohol, banking, labour, tobacco and electricity with comparable conviction. But they don’t. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most other rights supersede the right to know. Conspicuous exceptions aside, journalists are typically praise singers for government intervention against everyone else.

And after showing just some of the laws that take away the freedoms of industries other than journalism, over which journalists salivate and that they praise without question, he ends the article with the following:

Opposition to the “secrecy bill” reflects the curious fact that journalists and academics usually want government control of everyone but themselves. They pose as a special case deserving academic and press freedom, which they use to promote extreme regulation of everyone else, especially consumers, labour and business. Businesspeople are the other way around: most want intervention for themselves and freedom for everyone else. They are a special case deserving government subsidies, contracts, concessions, incentives, deductions and protection, whereas everyone else must face free-market competition without any special privileges.

Unlike people who espouse self-serving freedoms, lovers of liberty espouse freedom for all.

The silver lining of the “secrecy bill” saga may be that it serves as wake-up call for those journalists who have never internalised the immortal observation that freedom is indivisible.

Bravo, Leon. Read the entire article here.

UPDATE: A very good friend of mine made exactly this point a couple of years ago, on a blog I was also involved with. Read the article here.