The more I read about the hullabaloo over Linda Ikeji’s plagiarism and the eventual shutting down of her blog on Wednesday by Google, after incessant complains by mainstream journalists and co-bloggers, the more I remember Jesus Christ’s trial by the Scribes and Pharisees in the book of John Chapter 8.
They had brought unto him a woman caught in the very act of adultery, ‘’ Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou’’. Jesus ignored them, but they persisted, then the Master said, ‘’He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’’ And Bible recorded that ‘‘being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one’’
This article is not to defend Linda or plagiarism, rather it sets out to condemned the mob action against Linda, while the same mob ignore or pretend not to see the larger evil of plagiarism in the mainstream media.
Plagiarism in the media today runs deeper than Linda Ikeji’s blog. Unless we attack, shame, and sanction media houses and journalists guilty of plagiarism the way we have attacked, shamed and sanctioned Linda, I will believe the reason why we attacked the poor girl was because most of us are probably envious of the financial success of a neophyte in our profession.
Plagiarism runs deep in our media today. Most television stations in Nigeria show foreign clips and films without giving credit.
This is common with the foreign and sports desk. Football matches, tennis, athletics, boxing and other sporting events are shown on our television stations without credit, ditto our foreign pages.
Newspapers are the worst. From the front page to the back page, news stories and pictures are lifted from different websites without credit.
Pick the sport pages and the foreign pages of our newspapers, stories are downloaded from websites to fill many pages.
Our sports newspapers are terrible; eight to sixteen pages are filled with stories and pictures lifted from websites without credit. In some cases, reporters who are not anywhere near the venue of events append their bylines on stories from the net.
Recently, Premium Times accused Punch of plagiarism. Apart from a feeble denial by Punch, the major custodians of media ethics in Nigeria like the Press Council, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Guild of Editors, and others made no attempt to probe and sanction either Premium Times for making false allegations or Punch for intellectual theft.
So, if we, the professionals, who either studied journalism or were trained in the newsroom, are heavily guilty of plagiarism, why are all knives drawn out against a pretender?
If we seriously want to fight this evil, we must start by sanctioning the professionals.
Same goes on the issue of Linda buying a Range Rover Sports. In an industry where reporters and editors are riding exotic cars, Linda, a media owner buying a Range Rover should not be an issue. I belong to the school of thought who believe that Nigerian journalists should live in affluence like their counterparts in other parts of the world or like Nigerian professionals in oil and gas, telecoms, banking and other industries. If Linda had been in oil and gas, would her acquisition of a Range Rover be an issue? If Nollywood actresses or actors can cruise around in exotic cars, why not reporters? Or are journalist accustomed to poverty?
Or is anybody praying for a return to those days when journalists dress shabbily, struggle for lunch pack at events and their most prized possession is weather beaten Volkswagen Beatle.
So, if those criticizing Linda for her newest acquisition are not criticizing editors and reporters who cruise about in exotic cars, why crucify Linda alone, why not the editors and reporters?
Linda is a publisher and if she actually makes about 140 million a year, her source of income is legitimate, why the fuss?
No doubt, it is a good thing to invest in the less privileged, stocks, housing, and others, but if Linda has chosen not to travel that route, we should respect her choice. If tomorrow, she is broke and she knocks on our door, we could just slam the door in her face.
It is the politicians that we voted for, who are looting our treasury that we should be attacking not a Nigerian who chooses to spend her money the way she pleases.
Back to the issue of plagiarism and intellectual theft in the media, unless we attack the rot in the mainstream media the way we have attacked Linda, our attack on Linda and the eventual closing of her blog by Google could be liken to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Authority Stealing.
Pen robbers who steal six billion naira get a slap on the wrist, whereas the armed robber who steals six thousand naira is sentenced to death by firing squad.
In this case, Linda is the armed robber, she has been tied to the stake and shot, whereas professional journalists, who are the pen robbers when it comes to plagiarism and intellectual theft, get a slap on the wrist because of the omerta of dog no dey eat dog in the media.
I hope Linda will come out a better person and a better reporter. She should be humble enough to apologize for past unethical practices, plagiarism and intellectual theft, and if she has the opportunity to blog again, she should learn to abide by the ethics of journalism.
Mr. Thomas is a multiple award winning sports journalist. He writes from Lagos.