Shameless Plagiarism at The Nation Media Group

I’m a new and proud member of a google group: Bidii Africa.  It is a wonderful group made up of smart people – the kind of place where you learn new things everyday.  What we talk about is probably helpful to everyone that I, and you, know.  The Nation Media Group (NMG) thinks so too.  In fact, they recently printed some articles from Bidii Africa in The Daily Nation and The East African. Sadly, though, they stole what they printed out.  It is sad because I respect the NMG very much (or used to). 

But what is plagiarism, you may ask.  Did the NMG do anything wrong? has this to say about plagiarism: 

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense:
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to “plagiarise” means

1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
2. to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
3. to commit literary theft
4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterwards.” 

The NMG took articles from Bidii Africa and, without permission, printed them on their papers.  They also failed to, at the very least, acknowledge the source of those articles that they printed out.  This act is in extreme lack of any professional ethics and, in my mind, should be criminal. 
The recurring question is: why should a successful and respected newspaper plagiarise?   
 “Most often . . . the plagiarist has started out with good intentions but hasn’t left enough time to do the reading and thinking that the assignment requires, has become desperate, and just wants the whole thing done with. At this point, in one common scenario, the plagiarist gets careless while taking notes on a source or incorporating notes into a draft, so the source’s words and ideas blur into those of the plagiarist. 

The plagiarist’s standard defense-that he or she was misled by hastily taken and imperfect notes-is plausible only in the context of a wider tolerance of shoddy work. . . .
” (Source: Mano Singham’s Web Journal) 
Apart from general lack of professionalism and honesty, I can come up with a few reasons why the NMG did this.  Feel free to add your own. They are: 
  • The people at the NMG don’t know what plagiarism is. 
  • The NMG writers and editors are plain lazy. 
  • Not only are they lazy, they are not creative enough to come up with something o
  • riginal.    
  • Or maybe the NMG writers and editors are too busy to do what they are paid to do. 
  • The NMG didn’t think they could get caught.
  • It was an honest mistake.

How do you tell if your work is plagiarised?  Here’s a link to plagiarism checking software:

The bottom line is that the NMG should be ashamed of their actions.  The Bidii Africa group deserves an apology and, perhaps, some sort of compensation.
Update: Some Bidii Africa members raised the issue with people at NMG.  It seems that, in return, they got threats.  How deep does impunity run?
Update 2: Charles from the NMG handled this issue very well, prompting me to write a follow-up: The Nation Media Group, Plagiarism, An Apology and Customer Service – A Case Study.  Also added “Honest Mistake” to the list of reasons why the NMG would plagiarise anything.

Additional Resources


  1. hmmmm
    this seems to be an ongoing situation at NMG. I believe that Bankelele had a similar complaint about them a few months ago

  2. Have you written to the Editor? Yes I know it may not bear much fruit but at least the Editor should be made aware of what is going on.

  3. @aaarrrggg: I felt exactly as you do when I wrote this but now I feel differently about the NMG. I like them again.

    @Acolyte: Nope I did not write to the editor. However, someone from NMG contacted me and provided a satisfactory explanation as far as I go.

    Here it is:

  4. Choosing An Online Plagiarism Detector To Check For Plagiarism

    Plagiarism is a growing problem in academia and the work place. The internet has made it easy for nearly anyone to copy written material and pass it off as their own work. Because of the legal and ethical dilemmas associated with plagiarism, plagiarism checking software is now readily available. With so many online plagiarism detectors, choosing one may seem like an overwhelming task, but it can be easy if you know what you’re looking for.

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