Thai portal thrives on plagiarism

BY Nava Thakuria| IN Media Practice | 13/03/2006
Check out Asian Tribune`s coverage of the Indian Northeast. Almost every story can be traced to one already published somewhere.

Nava Thakuria

The more newsworthy Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Northeast India become,  the more some journalists seek to exploit the situation. Internet communication is a a boon for serious and committed journalists, but it has also brought ample scope for plagiarism.  Lifting stories from published sources and then selling them to a news portal becomes a viable option. Some daring (?) journalists have emerged who don¿t hesitate to steal stories from various websites and then put those in their bylines. A few of those lifted stories are published with no change of sentences and words, sometimes not even a coma, semi coma or full stop in the entire text.

Here is an unique example of misadventure, where one journalist (reportedly based in Chittagong of Bangladesh) is contributing for an important news portal with numerous lifted stories unabated. T Siamchinthang, a regular contributor to Asian Tribune (www.asiantribune.com <http://www.asiantribune.com) has made it a habit to steal stories from various websites and put those in his byline for the Thailand-based news portal. The frequency of lifting is high, in average 3 to 4 stories a week. More surprisingly, T Siamchinthang lifts stories from some key news portals, which are uploaded from different countries like India, Bangladesh and Burma and well visisted  by  netizens.

Recently, T Siamchinthang reported on a Manipur MP¿s appeal to the Government of India regarding the Tipaimukh dam project. It was datelined March 6 on Asian Tribune as ?Taking a firm stance against the proposed Tipaimukh Hydro-electric Power scheme, the Outer Manipur MP, Mani Charenamei, has strongly urged the Central government to scrap the potentially harmful project forever. Besides raising the matter in the Lok Sabha, the MP has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in this respect.? Interestingly, The Imphal Free Press, a leading English daily from Manipur in Northeast India, had reported exactly the same story a day earlier: ?IMPHAL, Mar 5: Taking a firm stance against the proposed Tipaimukh Hydro-electric Power Project, the Outer Manipur MP, Mani Charenamei, has strongly urged the Central government to scrap the potentially harmful project forever. Besides raising the matter in the Lok Sabha, the MP has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in this respect.?

The last paragraph of the news in Asian Tribune reads, ?Speaking on the same issue in the Lok Sabha on Friday, the MP drew the attention of the Union power minister SK Shinde to the matter and urged the Central government to stop the move for construction of the Tipaimukh Dam forever?, where as the same lines were used in the Manipur daily: ?Speaking on the same issue in the Lok Sabha on Friday, the MP drew the attention of the Union power minister SK Shinde to the matter and urged the Central government to stop the move for construction of the Tipaimukh Dam forever.?

While this writer contacted Pradip Phanjoubam, the editor of The Imphal Free Press, he expressed ignorance about his newspaper's stories being  reprinted on the news portal. Reacting from the Manipur capital he said he was shocked, and denied having any tie up with the Asian Tribune, which might have allowed the portal to reprint the stories. The story on Tipaimukh Hydro-electric dam was done by his own correspondent, confirmed Mr Phanjoubam.

On March 7, T Siamchinthang reported on malaria, dysentery and hepatitis occurring on the Indo-Burma border for the Asian Tribune, where as the same story was uploaded by Burma News International on an earlier day. ?Lamka, 07 March, ( Asiantribune.com): Unusual as it is, malaria, dysentery and hepatitis has spread during the cold season in Thantlang Township¿s border area, Chin state, Burma. A report says that malaria, dysentery and hepatitis spread in Thantlang Township in February. While adults have also been infected children are reportedly the most affected,? said the report by T Siamchinthang. The Burma News International reported on Mon 06 Mar 2006 (Khonumthung News) Unusual as it is, malaria, dysentery and hepatitis has spread during the cold season in Thantlang Township¿s border area, Chin state, Burma. A report says that malaria, dysentery and hepatitis spread in Thantlang Township in February. While adults have also been infected children are reportedly the most affected.?

Similarly Asian Tribune (contributed by T Siamchinthang ) flashed a story on Bangladesh busting Myanmar rebels¿ camp as ?Lamka, 06 March, (Asiantribune.com ): Troops busted a jungle hideout in southeast Bangladesh and seized weapons which they believed were stored by rebels from neighboring Myanmar and could also be used by Islamist militants fighting for Sharia law in Bangladesh.? Amazingly, the international news agency Reuters reported the incident same day from Dhaka as ?Troops busted a jungle hideout in southeast Bangladesh and seized weapons which they believed were stored by rebels from neighboring Myanmar and could also be used by Islamist militants fighting for sharia law in Bangladesh.?

The same news portal with the byline of T Siamchinthang reported on Bangladesh¿s hand over of 75 Myanmar citizens to Nasaka as ?Chittagong, 06 March, (Asiantribune.com ): A total of 75 Myanmar citizens were handed over to Nasaka forces of Myanmar on Sunday, after a bilateral flag meeting between Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Myanmar security forces (Nasaka), at the frontier upazila of Teknaf.? Astonishingly, the Dhaka based English daily The Independent reported about the incident two days earlier with contribution from their correspondent at Cox¿s Bazar as ?Mar 4: A total of 75 Myanmar citizens were handed over to Nasaka forces of Myanmar after a bilateral flag meeting between Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Myanmar security forces Nasaka today at the frontier upazila of Teknaf.?

A letter was sent to the editor of the news portal on Tuesday (March 7) last, informing it about the bizarre similarities of these news items in Asian Tribune with those in The Imphal Free Press, Burma News International, Reuters and The Independent , but the respond from concerned authority is still awaited. Now the question that arises, how it become possible for T Siamchinthang to report for all the acclaimed newspapers and news agencies and subsequently contribute for the Asian Tribune (same day or later) with bylines from different locations? Or is it possible that, T Siamchinthang reported for these media groups first and later sent the same stories to Asian Tribune with his byline ?

There is more. Syed Zarir Hussain, the Guwahati-based correspondent of Indo-Asian News Service reported about the troubles for journalists in Northeast India on February 10 (with his byline) as ?Journalists working in India¿s restive northeast are caught in a Catch 22 situation, often becoming the targets of both state and non-state actors, leading to a muzzling of press freedom.? And T. Simchinthang reported next day (February 11) for Asian Tribune as ?Journalists working in India¿s restive northeast are caught in a Catch 22 situation, often becoming the targets of both state and non-state actors, leading to a muzzling of press freedom.?

Same story, same intro and more surprisingly the same words in the entire news item, but the news was released by two Asian portals (Indo-Asian News Service and Asian Tribune) with two different bylines (Syed Zarir Hussain and T. Simchinthang). Syed Zarir Hussain (who is from Guwahati and has been in this profession for a decade now) confirmed that he never reports under other names. Both the news items are still available on the web. One can only marvel at the ingenuity of T Siamchinthang who is evidently very prolific and very mobile, filing from different countries on different days.

Contact: navathakuria@gmail.com

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