Property Theft

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective

November 28, 2001

It is not uncommon even for people working on opposite sides of an issue to refer to each other and sometimes acknowledge the work the others are doing. At The Perspective, we pride ourselves by taking issues with the wrongs that are going on daily in our country, subjecting our people to undue hardship, humiliation and despair because a few greedy individuals feel that the country and its resources belong to them. As always, we understand and expect that there would be those who would make a living by trying to mystify the people, turning the truth into a lie and painting things a different color. In Liberia today, as it is the case with any dictatorship, there are men of pen who have found a way to make a living by serving as praise singers. They sang the same songs from Tolbert to Doe and now they are singing the same songs to Mr. Taylor.

All that will be good and understandable if such behavior was done at least honorably. If one really believes in a cause, one does not need gimmicks to make a point. But our colleagues of the government propaganda machine don't believe in their own cause. They don't see anything good coming out of the government. Therefore they are left to go through the web, looking for any semblance of apology that would allow them to make a point, to show to the their masters that there are decent people out there who defend them.

On two occasions, the hired pens of the Executive Mansion have committed the indecent act of quoting news stories without feeling obligated to mention the sources. Not only did they not say where they got the stories from, they went as far as creating a false context.

While in the United States, some prominent Liberians accept to give us their opinions on issues affecting the country. Some are afraid to speak, others, like government officials hide away and do not want to confront us. To the few who dare to speak their minds, courageously and put forward what they consider to be in the best interest of peace, we provide them space.

We don't mind if the Executive Mansion Propaganda Machine quotes the texts. But this must be done in consideration of the basic ethics of journalism. We all learn in school how to quote a text. But the hired pens read through those interviews, they only lifted and published parts of those interviews that could best serve their political interests. This is an acceptable practice. But what was wrong in this case is the thieves did not have the courage or decency to say that the stories came from The Perspective.

In the world of news and arts, there is something called intellectual property. When a newspaper publishes a story, that story is copyrighted. It means that story and its content and everything else belong to that paper. In order to publish or reprint any part of that story, one must obtain written permission, unless otherwise stated. Otherwise, the act is considered theft an in many countries, punishable in the courts of law.

Unlike our colleagues from Monrovia, we don't censor people. When we interview people, we let them speak their minds and we publish what they say. We don't go around cutting edges to suit our political purpose. What the government people do is tantamount to a criminal act in our line of work. They steal the news. They distort it and finally they change the context.

Although it would be too much to expect anything less than theft from them, we would ask that in the future, when quoting us, they should please have the decency to recognize the source and please let the story remain in the context where it was created. Our interviews with both Sheik Kafumba and Dr. Tipoteh were not speeches to groups of Liberians in the United States. These were texts of interviews carried out by the staff of The Perspective. If this behavior continues, we may have to ask for legal redress.There is a limit to criminal behavior.

Of course, with everything else that is going on in Monrovia, intellectual property is the least of the concerns of people who can justify the killing of innocent people and the theft of national resources by a band of kleptocrates. • e-mail:

• The Perspective • P.O. Box 450493 • Atlanta, GA 31145