I was intrigued by the admission by the Bernama editor-in-chief Zulkefli Salleh that there was some basis in the accusation made by the Indonesian newspaper Jakarta Globe that two of its articles published online pertaining to the ongoing Indonesian presidential debates had been plagiarized by Bernama.
As a result, I read in detail the allegations by Indonesian Globe.
The most recent incident occurred on Sunday when Bernama plagiarised “word for word” an article published on the Jakarta Globe website entitled “In Closing Debate, Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”
The article was part of Jakarta Glob’s live coverage of the fifth and final Indonesian presidential debate which was published on July 5.
Bernama published a similar article the next day under the heading, “Joko Promises Bureaucratic ‘Breakthrough,’ While Prabowo Strives for ‘A Dignified Nation.’”
Jakarta Globe alleged that Bernama had copied the Globe’s piece verbatim, attributing one of the many quotes in the article to the newspaper.
Bernama also removed the names of Globe reporters Josua Gantan and Andrea Wijaya, the original authors of the story, replacing the byline with a Bernama journalist, Elmi Rizal Alias.
The Jakarta Globe also accused Bernama of plagiarising an earlier story by its reporter Basten Gokkon on the fourth debate “Hatta Says Indonesia Should Take Advantage of Its ‘Demographic Bonus.’”, which was published by Bernama under the headline “Indonesia Should Take Advantage of Its ‘Demographic Bonus’ – Hatta”. Bernama claimed it was written by its reporter Elmi.
As the four articles, two by Jakarta Globe and two by Bernama, can be downloaded easily, it can be immediately established that Bernama had indeed been guilty of plagiarism as accused by the Indonesian newspaper and not just “there was some basis” in the plagiarism allegations.
The Bernama editor-in-chief should be frank and forthcoming in keeping with journalistic ethics and traditions and own up to the two charges of plagiarism and make the necessary amends, instead of playing tai-chi claiming that Bernama does not condone plagiarism but yet want to buy time with the plea that an immediate investigation needed to be held.
It is clear from a quick read of the four articles concerned that the episode marks an international disgrace for Malaysian journalism, and Bernama should not prolong the shameful episode but should instead own up to the charges of plagiarism together with taking the necessary remedial action, including apology, retraction and action against the journalist concerned who had brought disgrace not only to Bernama but to Malaysia as well.