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June 30, 2005

Hitting the headlines

dsc_0004Bloggers are notorious for lifting newspaper articles and simply copying and pasting them on to their sites. An average edition of the New York Times, for example, must get duplicated thousands of times every day on weblogs across the world.

Well, in Ethiopia, it happens the other way round. The photo shows the last MeskelSquare.com entry as copy and pasted by The Addis Tribune. Its editors took it off the screen and used it as their front page story and double page feature. A feature on the page before it was unwittingly provided free of charge by my wife, taken from the BBC's news website.

One of the things journalists have to get used to in Ethiopia is the rather flexible attitude of the country's newspapers to copyright. You write an article for the Times or Reuters one day. And the next you wake up to discover that you've just written the front page lead for the Addis Tribune, or become an unpaid feature writer for the Daily Monitor.

It has become common practice and no one is that bothered about it. I am not sure what would happen if I called up the Tribune and asked for payment. (If they are offering one, they can reach me by the email address in the top right hand corner of the page.)

But it is perhaps no coincidence that the best written English language papers - The Reporter and Fortune - are the ones with the smallest proportion of "borrowed" content. (Although a number of front page pictures published by The Reporter in recent weeks did look a little familiar).

Back to the elections - it is probably not the best day to be having a dig at local newspapers. Four editors of Amharic newspapers have been arrested for their coverage of the post-election violence when at least 36 people were killed in clashes between stone-throwing youths and armed police.

Befekadu Moreda, editor-in-chief of Tomar; Zelalem Gebre, editor-in-chief of Menilik; Dawit Fassil, editor-in-chief of Asqual; and Tamrat Serbesa, editor-in-chief of Satenaw, all Amharic weekly newspapers, were detained for seven hours and later released on bail of 2,000 birr each (about US $228), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

They faced charges of "defamation and misrepresentation" of the Defence Ministry, state-run news agency ENA said on Wednesday. "The editors were charged for persistently carrying news items that slur the good name of the Ministry and attempt to alienate the military from the Ethiopian people", it said.

That last two paragraphs, by the way, were copy and pasted from IRIN and Reuters. And no, I'm not paying.

Posted by aheavens at June 30, 2005 5:28 AM