It all started last week in January when we received an email purported to be coming from Lionel Faull of our London-based partners – Finance Uncovered. The email was a DMCA takedown complaint from someone impersonating Lionel with a fake gmail account. Following that our hosting company digitalocean.com sent us a ticket to ask us to respond and warned us of the consequences.
We quickly got in touch with Lionel to draw his attention to the obviously fraudulent DMCA takedown complaint in his name, but which he didn’t initiate. Lionel sent us an email and in our response which we copied our hosting company indicating to them that the complainants are not the original copyright owners whose express permission we have to republish the investigative story about the corruption and destruction including addiction and tax avoidance that the betting industry is causing Kenya.
But around 16 hours yesterday February 4, 2021, Digital Ocean believing it is dealing with the legitimate copyright owners took down our website for a breach of copyrights. We were shocked, as we were completely locked out of the backend as well and we couldn’t reach Digital Ocean through our account with them. However, after a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts raising concerns about the action in which we tagged Digital Ocean and other freedom of the press organisations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, also our partners and the Journalism Fund, which has funded one of our investigations in recent times, Digital Ocean restored the website giving us three days to put up a legal counter-claim.
We have subsequently taken the story down pending a final resolution.
We have sufficient reason to believe that the people behind the criminal act of impersonating the two authors Lionel Faull and Paul Wafula of The Nation newspaper of Kenya could be no other person or persons but the characters that were exposed in the said extensive investigative piece which was funded under the Journalism Fund’s Money Trail project. The story in question was triggered by a leaked document from the Kenyan betting regulatory authorities. It showed how the betting companies are corrupting public officials, their tax avoiding strategies and how many young Kenyans are becoming addicted to betting.
It should be clear to everyone why these individuals or groups do not want the story out. As we work to resolve this, it is our considered view that the action taken by Digital Ocean has called into question our integrity as a globally recognised reputable investigative news website and we are conferring with our lawyers on all the best possible ways to respond appropriately to this very offending attack on us.
Ghana Business News and Finance Uncovered are partners and this isn’t the first time we are republishing their works. We have collaborated with them recently and have also received funding for investigations under the Money Trail project.
Not long after the bogus complain from the impersonator of Lionel, we received another complaint from very likely the same persons or person impersonating Paul Wafula and The Nation newspaper. The offending individual or individuals created a one-page blog, copied our article and posted it there as ‘evidence’. The said blog mimicked The Nation newspaper by calling itself the Dailynationreport.blogspot. We have responded and indicated to Digital Ocean that we have the copyright to the article from the rightful owners but they appear to be insisting that the complainants are making ‘a valid’ complaint, which we find quite weird because we are sufficiently informed to know that these are impersonators whose only mission is to get a credible news about them they don’t want the world to read taken down.
This attempt to silence us, obviously by perpetrators in the betting industry, which is well known to be ruining lives in Africa and siphoning millions of dollars in elaborate tax avoidance schemes, will not stand.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi