The danger of narrow copy-paste 'journalism' in Solomon Islands & a brief demonstration of copyright infringements, copying the wrong headline, English grammar mistakes, and wrong issue dates in the country's printed newspapers

Last modified: 
22/2/2016

Reception by RAMSI's Public Affairs and Media Manager

A comment by RAMSI's Public Affairs and Media Manager, Johnson Honimae, upon the current article, can be read below: I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have discussed in your article. Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) is having its summit in March 2016 and you could try to include the issue in the agenda. I believe that what you discussed in your article does not only happen in Solomon Islands but in most other Pacific island countries as they strive to fill up the pages with a limited number of reporters they have on staff.1 Johnson Honimae has been a journalist in Solomon Islands since '84, working for both radio and print, during which he held positions including Editor of News and Current Affairs. He has managed SIBC for several years and has been president of PINA, again during several years. He has been a freelancer for international wire services including Reuters and before holding his current position at RAMSI, he went into public relations and public affairs working for the Government some years and worked at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji for 6 years. Johnson has watched the development of media in Solomon Islands and in the region with great interest.1
Contrary to what the on-line version of the Solomon Islands Telephone Directory suggests (the only consultable version there is the 2013 edition2), there exists a Solomon Islands Telephone Directory of 2015, in which only the following newspapers are listed:
  • Island Sun Newspaper,
  • Sunday Isles Newspaper.
The Solomon Islands Telephone Directory of 2013 listed the following newspapers (analogue to the 2015 edition: church papers, which are also distributed in Honiara3 are not listed there; idem for school newspapers4):
  • Island Sun Newspaper,
  • National Express Newspaper,
  • Solomon Star Co Ltd,
  • Sunday Isles Newspaper.5
Perhaps they are not in print currently (or possibly just due to the peculiarities of my personal life in Honiara): I have never seen the 'Sunday Isles Newspaper' or the 'National Express Newspaper' during the months I have been residing there.

The remaining two newspapers ('Solomon Star Co Ltd' & 'Island Sun Newspaper'), on the other hand, I have seen sold at various locations in Honiara.

The present article has certainly not arisen from comprehensive research, but rather from a brief glance upon Solomon Islands newspapers.

I argue that; within the country's context; the copy-pasting of foreign news updates, as heavily present in the Solomon Islands newspaper 'Solomon Star', is a fundamentally dangerous practice of (let's use a euphemism) 'journalism'.

Copyright infringements

On 27 June 2015, an 'Island Sun' journalist included 3 consecutive paragraphs, literally copied from a website article67 into a newspaper article. He did not mention any source, making the words appear as his own.8

In the issue of 15 January 2016 (I just took any issue lying around at my office), 'Solomon Star' did a similar thing, but perhaps even more worrisome. It copy-pasted an entire article from The World Bank, changed only the main heading (kept even the sub-heading) and didn't specify any source while doing so. This, misleadingly, made the article appear to be an original contribution.

A singular incident, you might think? Certainly not! Look no further than the next page in that same newspaper issue. 'Solomon Star' is bold enough to reproduce an entire article, entitled "Queensland labour company allegedly left fruit pickers from Vanuatu without pay" (even the title was adopted), without specifying any source.

Copy-pasting the wrong heading onto a copy-pasted article

Only a couple of pages further, that same 'Solomon Star' issue is further "enriched" with plenty of articles copied from foreign news media (without any mention of those sources). Most of the titles are plainly adopted, and perhaps luckily so.

One article which originally bears the title "Skepticism over Kiribati purchase of Fiji land", suddenly is headed "Guam to host massive military exercise" when pasted in to the 'Solomon Star'.

Was the newspaper perhaps in doubt here whether or not it was going to write an original article, or just copy-past one? Nope! The article "Guam to host massive military exercise" is simply another publication of the same news medium 'Radio New Zealand'.
In another article which was entirely pasted into the newspaper issue, without stating any source, even the picture from the original article was included.9

Browsing through the 'Solomon Star' of 23 November 2015 (I just grabbed any recent issue lying around); in which I again found the same copy-paste practices without references; my suspicion (that the infringements I wrote about are common practice) is confirmed.

Copyrights in Solomon Islands

This is perhaps in line with how is commercially dealt with other entertainment and copyrighted products in Solomon Islands (and perhaps in most developing countries, I would guess).

Here, I bet, one can hardly find any shop which sell authorized copies of foreign DVD's or software. Yet, many shops in Honiara (a lot of them are very noticeable in tents set up along the main road in Honiara's city center; and others either completely occupy a room in office buildings or are a partial business in such rooms) sell copied (or cracked, in the case of software) versions. Personally, I am far from familiar with local regulations (and law in general); so I cannot assess whether or not the laws of Solomon Islands (and international law) allow for such sales. I myself am an advocate of keeping information as open and free as possible, so I would question whether or not there should be money asked for those violent movies anywhere on the planet.

From my personal professional (but very limited) experience here in the music, radio and advertising industry; I suspected that copyrights are given little or no consideration by the staff and owners of those industries and that local artists are either very badly aware of the existence of those rights or simply do not think that others might respect such rights.

A 2010 Master thesis on contemporary music in Honiara sheds a some light on this (obviously with a lot more experience in the music business than I have had). It provides an interesting overview on the importance of sharing in the Pacific and Solomon Islands and says: [...] no cultural copyright (Strathern 199910) exists in Solomon Islands, as what is "more important to an object’s value is its social and ritual role within the community" (Philibert & Jourdan 1996:6211). It quotes another source to understand how locals in the Pacific regard cultural heritage: Cultural inheritance with its own concept of wealth creation, need not or cannot be 'stolen' and one need not 'sell' it in order to make a living.

This makes it difficult for Pacific islanders to understand that they could be restricted from using or commercially benefitting from what they have if a patent, copyright or trademark has been filed over it.

It also makes it difficult, in their effort to become part of a globalised world, for them to recognise potential commercial opportunities within their own culture.12
It also reveals that the Solomon Islands Legislation actually does have a copyright act.13 But it confirms my suspicion in that: There is no control over royalties and copyright at the present time, and radio stations can play songs without having to pay any royalties to the artists. At the same time, there appears to have been a notorious case of a local North Malaitan recording "Rorogwela" which was used by a French duo in a 1992 release called "Sweet Lullaby", where it seems that some local Solomon Islanders are still unsatisfied with no compensation (the song is thought to have sold more than 4 million copies) being offered to the the locals.14

Beyond the question of legality, I think it is plainly a very bad journalistic practice (and even misconduct, in case of the routine copy-paste) not to cite sources.

Danger in copy-paste 'journalism'

Above, I have demonstrated that copy-past 'journalism' is omnipresent in 'Solomon Star', and that they do not even mention their sources. However, just open any recent issue of its competitor 'Island Sun', and one will notice that they also shamelessly like to sell pages filled with articles by foreign media. When I examined the 'Island Sun' of 28 January 201615, I had to conclude that most of the news articles that day were simply copy-pasted from foreign news media!

I suspect that, if one or more publishers would actually make charges against a Solomon Islands newspaper for its actions such as described above, that this could potentially cause bankruptcy to such a newspaper.

This Solomon Islands practice stretches the concept 'journalism' beyond its limits. But more importantly, I deem this routine stand-alone copy-paste practice (regardless even of whether or not copyrights are infringed and sources remain unmentioned) to be a very dangerous one. Let me give you an illustration of that dangerous potential.

Consider e.g. what an average Solomon Islander might now know and think about the concept "Islamic". He/she is perhaps unaware of the broad diversity which this concept entails and has only been presented with information about terrorists via local newspapers and the viva voce which arises from it. Local journalists have perhaps never attempted to write any balancing background information on the concept, since it is foreign to most locals.

To further dwell on the example: I fear that the copy-pasted news snippets (foreign updates) are not ready to be presented separately to him/her considering the local awareness and context, but instead were written in (and let's say for) countries where (let us hope) people are either already aware of Islamic diversity and its peacefulness, are made aware of it through accompanying broader articles (which I fear do not get copied along with the narrow; and obviously most schocking; ones into Solomon Islands) in those same original media channels, or have instant and abundant access to the internet to find out about it (provided that they also have enough media wisdom to extract trustworthy information).

Confirmation of intolerance and discrimination towards Muslims on Solomon Islands

Shortly after midday of 18 February 2016, a certain member O.U. of the Facebook group Forum Solomon Islands Facebook (which counted 15,812 members on 19/2/2016, wrote a message Facebook on the "wall" of that group: A local Muslim Police was sacked for growing jungle-beard. He was angry and think it is illegal, racist and discriminatory. Around the same hour, he edits the post 3 times, to end up with: A local Muslim Policeman was sacked for growing jungle-beard after returning from holidays. He was angry and think it is illegal, racist and discriminatory. He is ready to file a case for his unfair dismissal. By the morning (9AM) of 19 February 2016, this message had been "liked" by 58 people, and had reached 64 comments (all of these actions were by members of that group; since the messages can only be revealed and commented on by members).

I'll represent some of the extreme comments to that post here, (I organized them chronologically and retained only the capital letters of the writers' names):

Reactions to the Facebook message claiming a Muslim police officer got fired because of wearing a long beard, in Solomon Islands

J.S. wrote (this got "liked" by J.S. & M.L. & S. F.): he need to go back to the jungle bush. F.G. wrote (this got "liked" by P.W.B. & B.G.): Hem sud catim jungle bush ya noma..staka muslim bt no werem jungle bush..oketa extremists (osem ISIS nd Taliban) na savve s rict tumas lo dressing blo oketa. Umi no nidim oketa extremists. S.S.S. wrote (this got "liked" by P.W.B. & S.W. & M.S.M.): He cannot control crime on.his own it needs team work..if u r not part.of the team in ur general practices n appearance, then u get the hell out n.go to middle east. W.A. wrote (this got "liked" by R.D. & B.G.): if code blo police that evry officer must neatly cut the hairy beards, then he is not excuse. otherwise hem should find another job in the wild When J.F. tries to counter these extremist comments (without ever talking about a "parallel government"), he gets replied in the following manner:
  • B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by J.F.): Are you promoting another parallel government constitution with its own regulations? I see it is colliding with our Country's Force Regulations? Which should be superior and which one should you defend? Are you from Solomon Islands?
  • B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by M.D.D. & J.F.): If Muslims want to grow beard they can continue because that is their religious rules/ Laws!...Then its find, they have the freedom to do that, BUT THEY DON'T HAVE ANY RIGHT TO DICTATE ANY COUNTRY'S REGULATIONS!.... If they want to work in the Solomon islands then, they must follow Solomon Islands! Whether you grow beard or Trim it...It will not Affect you spiritual relationship with Allah! So waste time trim it off and be employed by RSIPF!
  • B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by J.F.): Muslims can apply I think but follow Solomon Islands Law! How best can we put it? The Police Force is discriminating the Muslims or Muslims are Discriminating our Laws? Only outlaws Discriminate our Laws! Their expectations has no room in our Constitutions/ or Police Force regulations...So the expectation is illegal and is a Criminal Act already!..... So good he is sacked because he is a Criminal!
  • B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by J.F.): You did not shave to become a Police officer! You shave to give credit to your being a police officer, smart, gentle and a role model! Police Force Rules of Discipline!....You Know We are a Christian Country and a British Colony! It greatly affects how we see things!....But bro what you defending is a world wide typical Muslim expectations every where they go! They expect every nations and people to respect and follow their Sheria Law!..If you want to know more about muslims and christians just type "Answering Muslims" in google search!..... The Extemists Kill to Dictate people so to follow Sheria Laws!....And that Poor Guy is trying to do it in the Solomon Islands!
  • B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by J.F.): It is not a Law to trim beard and it is Not even not a law to grow big Beard!..But it is part of RSIPF discipline regulation measures and Law keepers ( A lesser Law/ rule) within the Police Force!! And Police Act allows the existence of such disciplinary rules within the Force!! .Ma why na hem defendim too much, By hem die na time hem cuttem out?
B.G. wrote (this got "liked" by S.C. & W.A.): Hem good na hem sack early...because next step by hem askem uniform blo Police for change lo white sleeve dress ya.. eh eh eh eh B.G. wrote [this was deleted, at least before 9AM of 19 February 2016]: This is a world wide typical Muslim expectations every where they go! They expect every nations and people to respect and follow their Sheria Law!..If you want to know more about muslims and christians just type "Answering Muslims" in google search!..... The Extemists Kill to Dictate people so to follow Sheria Laws!....And that Poor Guy is trying to do it in the Solomon Islands!" D.L. wrote (this got "liked" by M.V.T. & L.L. & A.T. & 2 others): In this era of Islamic fundamentalism, the beard is the symbol of extremism, jihad, religious intolerance, kidnapping, ransom, etc. This is the perception seen from the lens of any peace-loving Christian reading from daily events transpiring in the troublesome Mid-east & Africa. As for the case at hand, I would've thought 'sacking' is a bit too extreme. He should've been warned and reasoned with before pursuing alternative disciplinary measures other than termination. God forbid, but his termination may have just sown the seed of hatred towards the SIG, thus, birth of a future bomber....lol" L.L. wrote: But his thinking and views undermines how our police dressing code and standards stands how.He is no different. He knows that during his premature days a police officers. Submit to the rules. They were indoctrinated or poisoned by their believe. Putting on a big beard in a muslim worlds symbolises fundamentalism. Solomon islands dont need that. S.N. wrote (this got "liked" by D.R.M. & J.R.M.): Tallem local muslim sacked policeman ya for hem jihadist nomo. Apply go lo ISIS. This is not an unfair dismissal. A.W. wrote (this got "liked" by J.R.M.): In muslim countries, I believe all their disciplined forces both police and military do not wear long beards. Taliban, ISIS and other islamic extremists nma wearem kaen ya. Sacking blo hm stret wan nomoa ya. Tingting nomoa. M.B.M. wrote: No confuse members..This Police officer concern is an asshole who do not live up to his Oath of Allegiance..Go to the Middle East, where they can take your lame shit excuse onboard,Mister foolishman..Nomo lo Policeman na ba...lol M.B.M. wrote (this got "liked" by J.R.M.): Yumi waste taim lo kind thread olsem ia.Hem laik smart then ansa naia. A.F. wrote (this got "liked" by D.T.E.T. & L.K. & M.B.M. & 2 others): Off course in Indonesia they will allow them to wear Hijab. Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. Muslim faith is new to Solomon Islands and a minority religion will have to deal with this issue. I see a lot of Muslims with clean cuts. Saddam has a mustache and he is as Muslim as you can get. Muslim soldiers in the U.S army all have to live up to code of the military. The only beared soldiers that I know of is the Taliban. Just thinking out loud. T.M.K. wrote (this got "liked" by D.T.E.T. & L.M.): The majority rules. That's the beauty of democracy. You wanna fuck around with RSIPF conduct and discipline, you'll get fucked. Simple as that.

Major English grammar mistake in a newspaper's main headline

The 'Island Sun' newspaper, on 28 January 2016, had the following words in capital bold face on its front page (it is the main header of that day's newspaper): SEPARATISTS WANTS BASE IN HONIARA16 Of course, no journalist in the world is absolutely proficient in any language, but I think that mistakes such as this one (since it occurs in the 5 largest words of that newspaper issue) could be prevented by better editorial oversight.

The article has also been produced on the website of the newspaper, where the same mistake has not been corrected.17

Wrongly printed date of Old Year's issue

On Old Year 2015, the newspaper 'Solomon Star' printed "31 August 2015" on the front page of its issue.18

One might think that this date would be one of the hardest to be mistaken about. Unless minds are already set to a party mood, of course...

The noun of "wrong issue dates" in this article's title is in plural, since I hypothesize (considering the special date of the described occurrence) that this problem might occur more frequently than I have noticed during my short inspection of the country's newspapers.

Anecdote: the price (and value) of a newspaper in Solomon Islands

On the day of publication, the price of an issue of the 'Island Sun' as well as that of an issue of the 'Solomon Star' is SBD$5.

'Solomon Star' (in its own issues) actually advertises to buy its newspapers in the following manner: Looking for newspaper for wrapping goods or your basic necessities?

Newspaper wrappings can be used for a lot of things.
  • Mothers - Use them for Baking (motu).
  • Workshops - Use them for spraying their vehicles.
  • Shops - Use them for wrapping goods in the shops.
  • Mothers - Use them for cleaning their windows or even their glassware.
  • Fishermen - Use them for wrapping their fish at the market.
  • Going Finis - It helps a lot when packing your things to move on to your new home, and the list goes on.19
Guess what the price of such a 'Solomon Star' newspaper is? The advertisement shows the following: "AVAILABLE [SBD]$5"19 (this is indeed the price for any old issue of that newspaper, also when you want to buy it as a researcher).

Does this perhaps imply that the journalistic work of the paper is so original that its value stays forever, regardless of whether you buy a new or an old issue? Or does this perhaps makes us better understand why people value a newspaper?

I just thought a little layer of irony wouldn't hurt; although, in the end, it is obviously better to re-use the newspapers for another purpose than to burn them (as is usually done here with any kind of 'waste').

Genuinely, I want to take a chance to wholeheartedly acknowledge the good will of the people behind the newspapers and the difficult conditions which they try to conquer. I very much respect those people which try their best.

My criticism is of course an expression of a wish for the Solomon Islands media channels to further improve. After all, newspapers are indeed useful for "basic necessities". Good journalism might help people of Solomon Islands to acquire them.

Footnotes

  • 1. a. b. ▸ With permission and from private correspondence with Johnson Honimae on 1/2/2016.
  • 2.https://www.ourtelek..., Telephone Directory, Our Telekom, at 28/1/2016 & at 18/2/2016
  • 3.https://books.google..., Brij V. Lal & Vicki Luker (Editors), TELLING PACIFIC LIVES. PRISMS OF PROCESS, [ANU E Press] Canberra: The Australian National University, [ISBN: 9781921313813 (pbk.) 9781921313820 (pdf)], 2008, p. 279
  • 4.http://vincentverhey..., Chung Wah School in Honiara, Solomon Islands, 14/11/2015, last modified 3/1/2016
  • 5. ▸ Solomon Islands Telephone Directory 2013, Boroko, Papua New Guinea: PNG Directories Limited [Copyright Solomon Telekom Company Limited], 2013
  • 6.http://www.insidethe..., Liam Morgan [at the Main Press Centre in Port Moresby], Fiji set to launch bid for 2023 Pacific Games, insidethegames, 8/7/2015, at 26/1/2016
  • 7.http://www.foxsports..., Fiji set to launch bid for 2023 Pacific Games, The SportingPulse Network [ONOC Media - FOX SPORTS PULSE], updated 9/7/2015, at 28/1/2016
  • 8. ▸ Philip Lilomo, BID TO THOST 2023 PACIFIC GAMES, The Island Sun [Issue 2044], 27/7/2015
  • 9. ▸ Solomon Star [No. 6078], 15 January 2015
  • 10. ▸ Marilyn Strathern, What is intellectual property after?, in: J. Law and J. Hassard (eds.), Actor Network Theory and After, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1999, p. 156-180
  • 11. ▸ Jean-Marc Philibert & Christine Jourdan, Perishable Goods: Modes of Consumption in the Pacific Islands, in D. Howes (ed.), Cross- Cultural Consumption: Global Markets, Local Realities, London: Routledge, 1996 p. 55-76
  • 12.https://web.archive...., Dionysia Tabureguci , Cover Story: THE PACIFIC’S STOLEN IDENTITY. How Intellectual Property Rights have failed Pacific cultures, Islands Business International, 2007, [archived at 8/12/2008, at 29/1/2016
  • 13.http://www.paclii.or..., Copyright Act, LAWS OF SOLOMON ISLANDS [Revised Edition 1996], CHAPTER 138, COPYRIGHT, Solomon Islands Consolidated Legislation, Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII), at 19/1/2016
  • 14.http://pacific.b.uib..., Pål Hægland, "I want my music to be my own". A contemporary music scene in Honiara, Solomon Islands, [Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of Masters Degre], Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, 6/2010, p. 55
  • 15. ▸ The Island Sun [Issue 2198], 28/1/2016
  • 16. ▸ Ernest Ta'asi, SEPARATISTS WANTS BASE IN HONIARA ... West Papua Liberation group moves to establish base here, The Island Sun [Issue 2198], 28/1/2016
  • 17.http://theislandsun...., Ernest Ta'asi, Separatists wants base in ... West Papua Liberation group moves to establish base here, Islandsun Daily News [theislandsun.com], 28/1/2016, at 29/1/2016
  • 18. ▸ Solomon Star [No. 6066], 31 December 2015
  • 19. a. b. ▸ Solomon Star [No. 6035], 23 November 2015

Comments

Social Media in Solomon Islands

I really like this critique. Currently I am working on my thesis 'Impact of Social Media on Newspapers in Solomon Islands'.

Reply to Teddy Kafo's comment of 4 May 2016 (cf. above)

Dear Teddy Kafo, thank you for your comment.

It would be very interesting to read your thesis. Would it perhaps be possibly to notify us where the document can be accessed, once it has been published?

Kind regards, Vincent Verheyen.

Research topic changed

Hi,
Apologies for late reply but just to inform you that I've changed my topic. No longer about Social Media in Solomon Islands. However, I will keep in touch with you.
Ta...

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