Are we all thieves? Plagiarism by Rakyat
By Gobind Rudra
The year-old Rakyat Post and the fledgling Rakyat Times (no relation) have both faced complaints about journalists at their sites plagiarising work by other journalists, by “lifting” complete articles or substantial portions from other published reports, without permission.
• On Thursday, Malaysia Insider reporter Anisah Shurfah said the fledgling Rakyat Times plagiarised her story on the sacking of Khalid Ibrahim on Aug 9.
• Last month, Rakyat Post was exposed by lifestyle site Cilisos.my for having lifted its articles.
• In July, the Jakarta Globe complained that Bernama had plagiarised two of its articles in reports written by Bernama’s correspondent in Jakarta. The correspondent was withdrawn and Bernama promised disciplinary action.
• In August, Malay Mail Online’s reporter Boo Su-lyn told Facebook friends her story had been lifted by Free Malaysia Today. An editor at FMT left the next day, or was told to leave.
• Last October, Bernama plagiarised a story by Malaysiakini’s Susan Loone on its general news service. The Bernama account, with no indication it was not original work, was carried by Malaysian Insider, Star Online, Sin Chew and the Malay Mail. (Malaysian newspapers, online media, and broadcasters subscribe to Bernama’s news service: its reports may be freely used by its subscribers.)
Last month, an argument broke out on Facebook about the meaning of plagiarism and about extensive use of other published stories within reports at The Ant Daily. An executive at the Ant later said the company was taking legal advice on the matter.
Both the “Rakyat” sites have since taken down the stories complained about.
Rakyat Post’s plagiarism came to light after Cilisos wrote a slashing attack, cheekily giving Rakyat Post a well-deserved lesson on how to behave properly and ethically on the Internet. The management of the Rakyat Post apparently called in its editors to discuss the matter, but no further action was reported.
First, the Post had carried a staff-written story about a Cilisos article 21 types of Facebook commenters. That account quoted extensive portions of a Cilisos story, but the reporter was clearly writing her own account about the Cilisos article and stated the name of the author.
Later, the Post ran three other Cilisos stories, all lifted, without attribution or link, and without permission — extensively described, with screenshots, by Cilisos’s Lau Chak Onn.
All four reports were taken down but no other action was taken, as far as is known.
Rakyat Times’s plagiarism of Anisah’s story was noted on Facebook when she told friends she had found out that that her report on Khalid Ibrahim’s expulsion on Aug 9 had been lifted by RT. She said: “…a reporter copy-pasted an article i wrote from a PC we BOTH attended. His first three paragraphs were his own, then the rest of the article — 12 paragraphs — was lifted completely from mine. Talk about lazy reporting!” She followed up to say she had been told that an editor had pasted her published copy into a story under the byline of K Pragalath, then the RT reporter.
Anisah’s story was published on Aug 9 evening. The Rakyat Times story was run hours later, bearing a time stamp of 1am on Aug 10.
Word went around that an editor, David Anandarajoo, had left and on Thursday night, a job vacancy notice for reporters and an editor was circulated on Facebook.
Rakyat Times’s founder, lawyer-activist Haris Ibrahim, was listed as “interim editor”.
On Friday afternoon, however, it appeared the editor had returned to work; he had only been reprimanded. Haris Ibrahim did not wish to comment on the events.
Two fresh reports then appeared on Rakyat Times under the editor’s pseudonym, Mirror on the Wall. Both were about the MH17 funerals: one was an RT commentary, the other a news report about victims’ families of 13 paragraphs — every paragraph except the intro — taken from Celine Fernandez’s piece from the Wall Street Journal, attributed and linked, but used apparently without permission.
It appears that Rakyat Times is continuing on its merry ways, using other people’s work.
It also appears that various and sundry people or forces associated with those around the Rakyat Times have the distinct ability to manipulate and replicate events and conversations from the past for purposes of their own. Unscrupulously, too, in a manner in which ethics and other people’s lives matter very, very little, going by past encounters. The course of events in the past couple of days was certainly a replay: most certainly another black operation.
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