Yesterday, Femke van Zeiji, a Dutch writer tweeted that an intern was fired for plagiarism and ended the tweet with: “he can always come and work for a Nigerian news outlet.” She further stated that in Nigeria, the practice of plagiarism happens with impunity, even though national copyright laws forbid it. While Femke’s assertion is true, it is also one-sided, plagiarism is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
Big row @volkskrant: intern sacked for widely copy-pasting from other media. Well, he can always come and work for a Nigerian news outlet.
— Femke van Zeijl (@femkevanzeijl) November 2, 2015
In the copyright section of the Nigerian Press Council’s code of ethics, it is stated that, “where a journalist reproduces a work, be it in print, broadcast, artwork or design, proper acknowledgement should be accorded to the author.” But as Femke said, Nigerian journalists, bloggers, and writers have often violated this ethical principle with impunity.
Levi Obijifor, a Nigerian senior lecturer in Journalism at the University of Queensland, Australia, alleged that two of his articles published in The Sun Newspaper were wholly reproduced by the Daily Independent and The Sheet without references to him on May 18 and June 17, 2015 respectively. In October 2014, Nigeria’s famous blogger, Linda Ikeji, was slammed with a lawsuit by Google on the charges of plagiarism. Even more disheartening is finding these stories published on several other news sites without reference to its original owner.
However, Femke should bear in mind that the practice of plagiarism is a global issue as journalists and writers around the world are also guilty of this misdeed. In 2014, a number of notable writers made a scandal list of plagiarists, the most popular being that of a Cable News Network (CNN) editor, Marie-Louise Gumuchian, who was fired for plagiarizing about 50 stories.
Recently, an allegation of plagiarism blazed a German cabinet member, Ursula von der Leyen. It was discovered by VroniPlag Wiki – a site that is dedicated to rummaging written works for plagiarism and wrong citations – that Ursula’s 1990 dissertation featured about 27 plagiarized passages in her 62-page work. Although, Ursula defended this, the controversy lives on. Famous CNN columnist, Fareed Zakaria was also not spared. Fareed was accused of using other writers’ ideas without necessary attribution.
Rather than paint a grotesque picture of a country’s media, it would have been better if Femke had emphasized that Nigerian journalists adhere strongly to the writing code of ethics.