Friday, October 3, 2008

How plagiarists, pirates and profiteers invade a noble profession

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The noble profession of journalism has been violated in Ghana! It has been so demeaned and scandalized beyond redemption anytime soon.

Ghana’s media landscape has been described variously, often in positive notes, but I am one person who has not been fooled by those high sounding accolades, indeed the media in Ghana has come a very long way, but it is not yet time to say ‘Eureka’!

If you ask me, I will tell you I am the least impressed with the state of the media in Ghana without batting an eye.

The media in Ghana has gone to the dogs! Yes! Professional journalism has been so emasculated it is suffocating under the wait of criminal activities, mediocrity, shallow mindedness and unfettered greed for profit in the name of serving the public interest.

I remember someone taking me on when I lamented about the level of mediocrity that Ghanaians are willing to put up with in as much as they are willing to dish out. Excellence in much of what we do is a far cry and we appear to be just okay with it.

Indeed, anyone who has gone to school and has learned the English language and or any other language for that matter could read and write. And even school drop-outs can also write. As a matter of fact, there are some drop-outs who write better than some PhD holders I personally know.

But the fact that one could write, and indeed write well, does not make one a journalist! Journalism involves writing, but more than that it is governed by rules that anyone who wants to practice the trade must be informed about.

Charlatans, pretenders, hoodlums and any greedy fellow who finds the media a lucrative business venture have infiltrated the noble profession in Ghana, are doing their own things, and justifying their actions by the profits they are raking in.

But it is so appalling, especially so, because most media managers in the country do not understand what journalism is all about. And that is where the plagiarists come in.

Plagiarism is the act of copying another person’s works in the form of writings and putting them up as your own. It is a crime punishable by the law. It is a copyright infringement, but it is so rampant in the media in Ghana.

Ghanaian publishers hire just anyone who can write, refuse to give them training but unleash them into newsrooms to practice journalism and they are perpetrating criminal activities in the name of journalism.

It is common to find plagiarized works in most publications, especially, the online publications. They take works by others and do not credit them appropriately; sometimes they claim ownership of the works, by deleting every reference to the original creator of the intellectual work.

In conversations and correspondences I have had with some of these managers, including some owners of these media they confess that they are not journalists and do not know the rules! I have even had some challenging me when I have questioned their actions in cases where they have stolen my works and that of my hard working colleagues.

These people and all others who indulge in this act should be reminded that, by plagiarising someone's works you are more despicable than an armed robber and a rapist!

My friend Justin told me this morning to name and shame these crooks and that’s just what I am doing.

You would be surprised to know that the culprits include the so called leading media houses with some very highly respected journalists. In fact, one very popular Ghanaian journalist once told me, “but we all do it!” And I told him, well, I don’t. And it is wrong.

You would find that even the nation’s leading newspaper the Daily Graphic is guilty. A Canadian journalist friend of mine told me of how a reporter of the Daily Graphic stole his article and presented it to his editor as his own. He called this reporter and complained to him, and he simply apologized.

Only recently, my colleagues and I in the office found a story we had worked on so hard in the Daily Graphic and every trace and reference to our organization in the story were deleted. The Daily Graphic did not credit us!

A website, ghanamusic also recently stole an article I personally wrote on Ghanaian musician Wanlov the Kubolor and presented it to ghanaweb as their own. I got to know when I saw the story on ghanaweb and complained to the webmaster. He wrote back to me insisting that the story was sent to him by ghanamusic and so if I have any complaints I should make it to ghanamusic. I have written two emails to ghanamusic and they haven’t shown the courtesy of a reply yet.

The Daily Guide also stole a large part of a story we did on the recent Kantamanto fire outbreak and presented it as interviews they did on the spot. But that’s not all, sometime ago, some of the Daily Guide’s reporters stole some stories my colleagues and I published elsewhere and put their names by them as if they wrote them. I remember calling the editor and drawing his attention to the crime and he promised it won’t happen again, but it still goes on.

Other publications like Ghana Review International, allghanadata, ghanatoday, peacefmonline are culprits.

Sometime ago I heard a story I wrote and published elsewhere being read on Peace FM without any reference to either me or the publication that first carried the story – that is plagiarism.

It is perfectly okay to use works by other people but the proper practice is to acknowledge the source. Indicate where you are getting it from. Some publications would do stories from radio sources and say ‘an Accra radio station’, this is meaningless.

Simply indicate the radio station you are quoting. They often do this because they do not want to in their ignorance publicise the radio station or in other instances the website or the newspaper in their medium. Well then, if these sources are not worth mentioning in your medium, then do not use materials from them!

Very soon, I will be taking some of these criminals on by heading to court because that is the right place to deal with thieves!

It is so sad the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the National Media Commission (NMC) or the Copyright Office are not dealing with this matter. They probably are not because it has not been brought to their attention. Well, now I have.

The Copyright Office has been dealing with pirates of musical works. Plagiarism is the same as piracy and perpetrators must be dealt with.

No comments: