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Peru: Plagiarism at Every Level

diarios

There is no doubt about what has captured the attention of many Peruvian bloggers these past two weeks: the plagiarism of a local blog's content by the daily newspaper, La República [ES]. Though this isn't the first time such a thing has happened, this time we find much more repercussion. We covered the topic immediately in the Global Links, but now that it has reached an almost satisfactory conclusion, it's worth the trouble to take another look.

The case has two parts: first is the plagiarism found in the column El Ofidio, which reviews denouncements and news in the sphere of local politics, of a post from the blog Desde el Tercer Piso [ES] (“From the Third Floor”), a blog that took it upon itself to, this time, denounce the paper:

Agradezco mucho que La República haya recogido parte de los datos que presenté en el informe Elección Constitucional, pero, la próxima vez, please, muchachos de Camaná, citen la fuente.

I thank La República for including part of the data that I presented in the Tribunal Election report, but next time, please fellows, cite the source.

This denouncement was echoed quickly in various blogs, among them a post of Silvio's in Gran Combo Club is suggested as a main source of information for being apparently the most complete in terms of coverage, references, and chronology of what happened.

After boiling around in a few local blogs, the rectification was made by La República. It seemed like the impasse was overcome, although with the reservation articulated by Fer of Pospost:

Esta aclaración se enturbia ya que al tiempo de ponderar la información de José Alejandro Godoy, se da a los lectores una información falsa de la ubicación del mismo. La dirección es http://desdeeltercerpiso.blogspot.com/ y no desdeeltercerpiso.com, como señala Ofidio.

This clarification is clouded. [Columnist] Jose Alexander Godoy gives the wrong location of his source. The website is http://desdeeltercerpiso.blogspot.com/ and not desdeeltercerpiso.com, as is indicated in the Ofidio column.

The second part of this episode is the nearly veiled reference made by Mirko Lauer, also of La República, to another of Silvio's post, which curiously, had been mentioned in previous post here. What Lauer said was: “With a more playful spirit however, some blogs interested in the subject have begun to play with a hypothesis of war. As if it were a Playstation game”. Obviously, and surprisingly, Lauer did not completely understand the intention of post, or what it covered. As Silvio says:

Creo que los periodistas peruanos tienen que aprender a respetar un poco más a la blogósfera. He visto algunos ataques gratuitos y maltratos que son difíciles de racionalizar. En otros países algunos importantes medios como CNN, CBS, Reuters, Los Angeles Times fueron pillados por los blogs mintiendo groseramente, tergiversando fotografías, inventandose noticias, etc. Estos medios tuvieron que reconocer su mala práctica y hasta algunas cabezas rodaron …. ¿Podría ocurrir algo así en el Perú?

I think that the Peruvian journalists must learn to respect the blogosphere a little more. I have seen some gratuitous attacks that are difficult to rationalize. In other countries some important media outlets like CNN, CBS, Reuters, and the Los Angeles Times were overwhelmed by blogs when lying crudely, distorting photographies, inventing news, etc. They had to recognize their bad practices and sometimes heads had to roll … Could something like that happen in Peru?

However, unlike the plagiarism from Desde el Tercer Piso by the Ofidio column, this time there was no clarification or anything of the sort. Strangely, the following day Lauer mentioned a foreign article in his column and did include the source and even the URL, which brings up Silvio's point about mainstream media not considering national blogs important or worthy of credit.

But don't think that plagiarism is limited only to the scope of media and blogs. This last week the spotlight focused on an instance of plagiarism perpetrated by the well-known writer Alfredo Bryce Echenique of a text by ambassador Oswaldo de Rivero. Roberto Bustamante, of Blog del Morsa was the first one to write about it in the Peruvian blogosphere in his post: “Literature: Alfredo Bryce Attacks Again.” Soon, several more posts looked at the topic, the most recent of which is “Literature: Bryce, Complete Plagiarism”. From “Literature: the alfredo bryce affair,” I extract this paragraph which, coincidentally, was cited by someone we mentioned above:

En medio de todo este enredo, alguna voz quiere confundir más las cosas echándole la culpa a Internet y relativizando la falta. Si el asunto es de por sí vergonzoso, los argumentos de Lauer lo son más todavía:

Que sea muy facil copiar sin poner la fuente no significa que todos vayamos a hacerlo. Una regla en los blogs (no siempre cumplida, como toda regla) es anotar las referencias y linkear a los originales. En los medios escritos la fuerza de la costumbre parece impedir que se haga lo mismo, aunque es obvio que casi todas las columnas que leemos son por lo menos inspiradas en lecturas de sus autores (imagino que buena parte de ellas en internet, fácilmente referenciables para que los lectores contrasten por sí mismos).

No se trata de hacer aquí ni un escarnio, ni como se dice “hacer leña del árbol caído”. me parece que en varios de los casos (como resalta también en el post de jomra), prima el derecho del consumidor a rechazar un producto “bamba”, para darle la vuelta al argumento de lauer, donde “la red se convierte en la proverbial arca abierta donde hasta el justo peca”, justamente la red permite también la vigilancia y el control ciudadano. si no hubiera sido por la red, jamás hubiéramos podido detectar la estafa de alfredo bryce.

In the middle of all this tangle, someone wants to confuse things even more by blaming the internet and relativizing the transgression [ES]. If the subject itself is shameful, the arguments of Lauer are even more so:

Just because it's easy to copy without putting the source does not mean that we are all going to do it. A rule among bloggers (not always fulfilled, like all rules) is to write down the references and to link to the original sources. In printed media, the force of custom seems to prevent journalists from doing the same even though it is obvious that almost all of the columns that we read are at least inspired by what their authors read (I imagine that a good part of which is from the internet).

This isn't the place document the complete scenario, nor as they say “to make firewood of a fallen tree,” but it seems to me that in several of the cases (as it also stands out in Jomra's post), the right of the consumer to reject a bad product prevails over Lauer's argument that “the network becomes the proverbial open coffer.” The network allows the monitoring and control of the citizens. If it had not been for the network, we would have never been able to detect the theft by Alfredo Bryce.

In blog El Útero de Marita the topic has also been exhaustively covered and I especially recommend this post: “Some reactions on the plagiarism by Bryce” with lots of links to others blogs and articles. The outcome has been the resignation of Bryce to El Comercio and, like El Útero de Marita mentions in her post “Bryce resigns from El Comercio in bad form”, it has not been exactly what was desired. In his farewell:

…abandono mis colaboraciones con el diario El Comercio, entre otras cosas, porque como decía Orson Welles, el periodismo es un oficio en el que “hay muchas ostras, pero muy pocas perlas”. Y en cuanto a las disculpas que les debería a mis lectores, prefiero utilizar solo unas palabras de León Tolstói y prometerles que “la próxima vez fracasaré mucho mejor”.

… I abandon my collaborations with the newspaper El Comercio because, among other things, as Orson Welles said, journalism is a field where the “oysters are many, but pearls are few.” In terms of apologies that would owe to my readers, I prefer to simply use the words of Leon Tolstói and promise them that “next time I will fail much better.”

To which the El Útero de Marita comments:

Terrible que Bryce “no asuma absolutamente nada más” aparte del “error de su secretaria” y la “falta de control” en los envíos, cuando se han demostrado OCHO CASOS de plagio, uno de ellos de hace ONCE AÑOS.

It's terrible that Bryce “doesn't assume responsibility for anything else at all” aside from the “error of his secretary” and the “lack of control” in communication, when EIGHT CASES [ES] of plagiarism have been demonstrated, one of them from ELEVEN YEARS [ES] ago.

Finally, today La República published the article “All repetition is an offense,” that makes mention and openly cites the post from El Útero de Marita and other blogs. (It would have been the end if an article on plagiarism didn't cite its sources.) As an aside, it is worth noting that the Wikipedia articles on Bryce linked to above already mention the subject of the plagiarism. Well, even though we don't offer anything to be plagiarized this time around, it's best that we end here until next time.

Translated from Spanish by David Sasaki.

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