Plagiarism In The Pakistani Blogosphere
What is common between the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the famous American deaf and blind author cum activist Helen Keller and lead guitarist of The Beatles, George Harrison? They've all been accused of (and in at least two of these cases) successfully proven to have been guilty of plagiarism (see Wikipedia article on Plagiarism for more).
Incidentally it so happens that I've written a fair amount about this evil and in particular how the medium of the Internet has opened a plethora of opportunities for those who willing to cut short on a little extra hard work and suffice with mass copy-pasting. In the July issue of Spider I was asked to write a feature story on the theme, and a month earlier, in June, via The Karachi Metroblog I had discovered how one popular Pakistani ezine We Cite had been mass copying its content from all sorts of sources on the world wide web, right from ordinary blogs to the Washington Post's Slate magazine.
Since then, I've discovered several more instances of plagiarism in the Pakistani online presence (and other less serious though in no way insignificant cases of copyright infringement), many of which I had all but forgotten because I didn't want to carve out a reputation of my self as some one who enjoys driving publicity out of ruining other people's reputations. And frankly, there were so many of them, I just resigned to the fact that this isn't something you can curb merely by pointing it out in blogs. But then something I saw this morning brought back all those nasty memories I had buried all over again, and this time, since the plagiarized content in question had appeared in a mainstream popular Pakistani blog I knew bringing this out was necessary, and that if I didn't I would in effect be endorsing it. So here's what happened.
In its editorial two days ago, Dawn had touched upon the subject of public toilets and their dearth in Pakistan, I had read this two days ago and obviously retained part of it in my mind as you would when reading anything. This morning when I logged into my Google feed reader, I saw a post with a similar title. Assuming that it will discuss the said editorial, I went on to read. I kept reading till I reached the end of the short, concise post by Mehar Nawaz Khan at The Pakistani Spectator. Something wasn't going down too well even though I seemed to agree with everything Mehar had said.
Then it finally dawned on me. Why did the whole post sound so familiar to the editorial I had read two days earlier in Dawn? To check, I went up to the Dawn website, looked up their achieves and surely enough, there it was: the post at TPS and the editorial in Dawn; identical, verbatim copies of each other. A few months ago I may have been quite taken aback by such blatant plagiarism, but not now. If there's a ring of suspicion that rises about any thing, I almost half expect it to be completely indiscriminate with no attempt made even to blur the line between copied and original.
But the disappointment this time is much greater. I had caught plagiarism in a post from my RSS reader. This means that this was a blog I frequented and it had my respect for the perspectives it brought with it. There's been a lot of headway made by the Pakistani blogosphere in recent times and The Pakistani Spectator has been a vigilant avenue chronicling much of this progress. In an ongoing series, another of the TPS's bloggers Gazalah Khan has been interviewing prominent names from the Pakistani blogosphere (including yours truly). It is in ingenious idea that has resulted in some really fascinating insight into people like Raza Rumi, Omar Alvi, Awab Alvi, Owais Mughal, S A J Shirazi and others. TPS's coverage of ongoing political events in Pakistan has been equally impressive, coming across as refreshingly honest and forthright. That's why this discovery is as disappointing as it is.
The Pakistani Spectator is good blog, and good blogs don't have contributors copy-pasting editorials from national dailies (not the least without mentioning that they're quoting them!). There's a possibility this might have happened inadvertently, Mehar may have meant to quote the editorial in full, but forgotten to attribute properly, in which case, this is a grave error and needs to be acknowledged immediately. However if this was intentional, which it appears to be given how the author has made no attempt to correct the misconceptions arising in the comments that are showering praise at Maher for a writing a "touching" post, then that goes to say a lot about the mindset we have towards plagiarism as a society.
Students already tend to view copyright as "my right to copy", the main stream media are lax in their surveillance of intellectual theft, the powers to be at the highest levels (whoever they are) are derelict in applying whatever limited laws there are against such crimes, and all the rest of society is just too indifferent enough to bother. No wonder plagiarism is as rampant as it is, and it is carried out with as much effrontery as it is! Forget bloggers who plagiarise online, or even about students copy pasting assignments from Wikepedia to hand in last minute homework (and how teachers will, more often then not, do very little apart from verbally reprimand their students for this), in a recent job interview that I gave, my interviewer narrated how one of the applicants had copied large chunks of a written assignment given to shortlisted candidates off an advertising blog, and not only that later justifyed his actions by saying he was merely "quoting".
You'd think that you'd want to start your career on an honest note at least, but seems like honesty is no longer the moral yardstick of society. Of course I'd still hate to generalize all this with respect to Mehar Nawaz Khan and her questionable post at The Pakistani Spectator, it may be possible that it was done inadvertently, but surely enough, if that was the case, the mistakes should have been realised by now, especially when commentators in the post have started paying compliments to the author for a well compiled entry! That this post has sat there for two days and the author has basked in the glory of some one else's writing, and that too not any random some one but the editor of the largest read English daily in Pakistan, is nothing short of disgraceful. I'd still hate to think that TPS's reputation on a whole as one of the better blogs in the Pakistani blogosphere should suffer from this. But a speedy acknowledgment with due clarification and an apology wouldn't do any harm, and could possibly save them from more serious consequences (such as a law suit filed by Dawn).
And more importantly I hope that the Pakistani and indeed global blogosphere learns from this. Its easy to copy and paste on the web, so easy that even a website like Yahoo! has been found to indulge in it but there's no hiding when you're caught. And its not worth whatever little popularity it gains you in the meanwhile. Its no small business, its like stealing! So lets be honest, and promote intellectual honestly in others as well.
Plagiarism In The Pakistani Blogosphere
- » Published on October 11, 2007
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Author: Zainub Razvi
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