A Malawi newspaper (accidentally) steals my photo


The Photo in context by Tom Paulson - No doctor, no medicine at clinic in rural Nigeria

Update: Yes, the original headline “Malawi newspaper steals my photo” was a bit provocative. But it worked. I’ve since heard from the folks at The Nation newspaper in Malawi and they promise to give credit for the photo. This oversight is a minor mistake, taken in isolation, but unfortunately all too common today online.

The web is a great thing for widely distributing and sharing information, images and even active conversations.

But for journalists and others who basically (try to) make a living by developing original content, it can be frustrating to see others re-publish your stuff as their own. I had this happen the other day when perusing the African news media for stories readers here at Humanosphere might be interested in.

I ran across this article on the burden of non-communicable diseases written by Kondwani Munthali and published by The Nation newspaper in Malawi.

Looked like a good piece, I thought, and started to read. Then I noticed the photo. It’s my photo, taken when I was on a trip to eastern Nigeria a while ago.

Munthali and The Nation do not credit the photo. Neither Munthali or The Nation asked permission to use it. And to be clear, I’m fine with them using it.

All I ask is that they first make a request and also give credit to the author/source of the photo.

After all, that’s what Munthali and The Nation ask others to do — in their plagiarism statement.

I’ve posted a comment at The Nation online (not yet published, so far as I can tell). I’ve sent messages to Munthali as well as to several editors at The Nation — managing editor Edward Chisulo, editor-in-chief Alfred Ntonga and online news editor Elizabeth Banda. Haven’t heard back yet.

Below is a higher-resolution image of my photo, which I took at a remote rural clinic in eastern Nigeria while pursuing a writing project. I haven’t finished that writing project and may want to use these photos for that project. Does it matter if others start posting them on their sites as if they are their own photos — or some sort of generic photo available to all?

I don’t know. Maybe not. But I think it’s especially odd for a newspaper that wants to be given credit for its own work to be using others’ work without giving credit.

Tom Paulson

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