Plagiarism is the most common crime in Greek journalism that remains unpunished. What is plagiarism? According to the Greek dictionary compiled by Prof. Bambiniotis is “the appropriation of a foreign intellectual property.” In simple words: “I take someone else’s work and I present it as mine”.
Sounds like theft? It is so, because plagiarism is theft, and a theft that hurts much more than a common one and an offence which often hurts much more than the theft of an object. In that way I’ve been offended too. Indeed, plagiarism – in the era of internet and the information revolution – is so easy.
Often people forget that it is a crime and they are tempted to steal some information even if their real intention is just to do some research in order to write their own ideas. Anyway, it’s so simple: click, copy, click, paste and the ideas of another person appear in their document, without having done almost no effort. This is exactly what my Greek colleague “D” did. This plagiarism episode that affects me, causes at least surprise to the extent that can take a journalist’s audacity and non-professionalism. The worse is that the official Union of Greek Journalists showed elasticity and did not punish the guilty.
The story is simple and very common. In my case, four years ago I traveled with a photographer from Greece to a central European country in order to meet a Greek Leading researcher. I returned having in my pocket a great interview from him which I wrote for the daily Greek newspaper I used to work then. Two years later I saw the same interview published with almost exactly the same phrases in another daily Greek newspaper by another journalist, with a different signature, that of my colleague “D”. I called him to get some answers but he denied everything. He claimed that he had also called the Greek scientist and he forced me in a provocative way to drag him to the disciplinary council of the Official Union of Greek Journalists in which we are both members. I did so, having the hope that the truth would be the winner but I was wrong because the “guilty” was acquitted. He managed to convince the majority of the members of the council that he was innocent of plagiarism. Obviously he took advantage of having some strong connections among the board members who supported him in a positive way.
That’s why Greece will never have an official union of science journalists…
I was very disappointed then and I felt absolutely sure that we will never set an official science journalist association in Greece. And I will explain that.My colleague “D” is not a scientist but for many years he has convinced his audience that he has the right to write about science. Why? Because science journalism doesn’t exist in Greece. Everybody pretends knowing and writing about everything and this is a real problem. Although, a few of the journalists happen to have a scientific background, the majority of them have not and they continue to write about science regardless to their own inexperience, like “D” does.
In Greece, there isn’t a specific Union for Science Journalists, recognized by the official Union of Greek Journalists associations. But the most worryingly is that there isn’t a specific course for Science Journalism and Communication even at the Faculty of Mass Media Communication at the University. In other words, this Faculty “produces” journalists without specification and knowledge of Science communication.
By observing all this situation I tried two years ago to mobilize some colleagues to set an official Greek Association of Science Journalist in order to be more organized and to build a strong bond as a union with EUSJA. I invited 21 colleagues who -as I believed- could understand and write about science in the media, some of them having also a scientific background. And this was not very easy. After a little research I found them and I called them to share my vision (it’s amazing that no one spent some of his precious time to meet me personally).
Unfortunately among them was “D” who accepted my idea and he agreed to help me to set all together the science union. This Union of Greek Science Journalists was never set up and “D” used later this vision of mine as an argument against me after my complaint for his plagiarism to the disciplinary council of our official union. The fact is that he claimed that my action had something of revenge and that I was very angry because I couldn’t manage to set the union. The worst was that he created the impression to the members of the council that my whole motion to set up the new science union had a disruptive character for the existed official union of Greek journalists. This means that if you try to talk or write about science in Greece you are disruptive.
And here comes the question: What penalty is provided for not promoting science?
What penalty is provided for plagiarism? According to the law, heavy, mostly. Starting from 1-5 years in prison for simple offenses and go up to 10 years imprisonment for those who steal intellectual property by profession or habit. If you add to them and the high financial penalties provided for we will understand the extent of the seriousness, despite the fact that few people know it.
And now, what penalty is provided for not promoting science? What penalty is provided for the weak mind and poor imagination of some people, which have become the “common currency” of popular journalism and doom a country to remain in the Middle Ages with plagiarism and without real science journalism?
I need your answer.