The scourge of plagiarism in Ghana

12 years ago when I started Ghana Business News after leaving what was then a ‘good job’ at Citi FM – a story which full detail I will give one day – one of the things I have to deal with has been plagiarism.

So-called leading news organisations, TV, radio stations, newspapers and websites would steal my works – my sweat and blood and use without permission nor acknowledgement. They would put them up as their own. There was one time a newspaper used my article as its editorial!

Initially, I would make phone calls to editors and draw their attention to the offence, some would simply apologise, and then go ahead to credit the story, others, I would ask to pull down the story.

The worse I face in my reaching out to these people to complain has always been the attitude. Some of them would respond with disdain and rudeness. Yes. Editors didn’t care that their reporters were stealing other people’s works and passing them off as theirs. Some editors also did the stealing by themselves.

The bad behaviour continued and the more I complained the more these people hated me, and some still hate me for taking them on for stealing from me.

Then I wrote a scathing editorial in which I named and shamed the news organisations that have been stealing my works and that of others. They didn’t like it.

One day, one of the offenders decided to silence me. His method was to set me up in a fraudulent business deal and get me arrested. He set up a fake website claiming to be selling cars. He got a lady to call me with a foreign number to ask me to look for customers and get a cut. Well, they set me up with a ‘customer’ they found themselves and wanted me to deal with the person. The customer was to transfer funds to them with the assurance from me, that I once bought a car from them. Well, I saw through the scheme and told the customer not make any payments. That’s how I escaped the trap. Years later in a meeting somewhere with someone who once worked with that guy, I got an insight into who he is, and what he is capable of doing to others, and that threw light on the scheme for me.

Having said that, it appears most people; educated people in Ghana do not see plagiarism as a crime, because the level at which they engage in the practice gives an indication that it has been normalised through the education system. Additionally, even though plagiarism is a crime according to Ghana’s copyright laws, most people don’t get punished for it and so they see no reason not to engage in it.

It is common to find teachers, journalists, government departments and officials and university teachers plagiarizing other people’s works. Recently, a senior lecturer at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA), Dr. Edward Attah-Botchwey who is also the Head of the Banking and Finance Department plagiarized a Facebook post by one Roland Ofori Larbi, sent it to the Daily Graphic which published it both online and in print. When the lecturer was caught, he denied the offence, until the originator of the content dug into the matter and found sufficient evidence including emails that he sent to the newspaper, then he admitted the offence. Yesterday June 6, 2020 was exactly one month since the University authorities issued a letter saying they were going to investigate the matter, but there is no word yet. It’s surprising that one month after, looking into a matter of straight-forward case of plagiarism has yet to be known by the public – meanwhile, Dr. Attah-Botchwey is still heading the department and teaching students.

The growing scourge of plagiarism in Ghana is disturbingly a reflection of the fall in adherence to ethical values and the devaluation of creativity and originality.

It is common to find individuals steal other people’s posts and put them up as their own on social media.

The Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690) is unequivocal on what plagiarism is, it’s an offence and punishable.

It is high time that plagiarists are treated as they should, as thieves – people who steal the intellectual property of others and made to face the full rigours of the law.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Managing Editor

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