Mediaah! History will also record Zakaria as a plagiarist

13 Aug,2012

By Pradyuman Maheshwari


As a term, Indian media loves to define copyright as the right to copy than a protection of the intellectual property of a body of work. Under the garb of inspiration, many of our films are ‘lifted’ from their international counterparts without permission. Television is a nicer place with channels paying fair monies for formats of popular shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati, Indian Idol, Bigg Boss, Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, etc. Radio has had its issue on copyright for payments for airing of songs, but not for filching ideas.


Fareed Zakaria’s apology (and comments): /2012/08/  10/a-statement-from-fareed/

The article with the plagiarised text: 0,9171,2121660 2,00.html

The original New Yorker article by Jill Lepore: /23/ 120423fa_fact_lepore?currentPage=all

The Economic Times Code of Conduct dentiality -church-and-state

The MxMIndia Code of Conduct

The Slate controversy /2010/10/great_writers_steal.html

For many years, a majority of Indian print media editors have condoned plagiarism. In fact, many encourage it, some even indulging in them. News reports – in full or part – are often copied without permissions or attributions and no one really appears to worry about it much.


When Mediaah! ran as a standalone blog in the early 2000s, it wrote about how a reporter with a business daily had plagiarised from a report on the website of a rival paper. My attention was drawn to the apology that appeared.


At that point, my contention was while the reporter was to blame, her team leaders were equally responsible as they ought to have been more vigilant and tracked what immediate competition had written.


The reporter went on to work at various workplaces later, and I haven’t really tracked whether she has repeated the act or not. At another former workplace, I was faced with a situation where a columnist confessed to plagiarising. The column was dropped with immediate effect.


Many years back, a Hindustan Times editor also disgraced himself (and the paper) by plagiarising. His services were dispensed with after a furore over the issue.


Plagiarism – in any form is a crime – and it’s critical that organizations adopt strict rules. At the Economic Times and ET Now, for instance, it’s a “firing offence” as per the code of conduct.  At MxMIndia too, we have a no tolerance policy towards plagiarism and it could mean an immediate termination of employment, regardless of the utility or seniority of the journalist. However, as we figure, not all organizations have stringent standards on plagiarism. Some just let it be.


If it was easy to escape plagiarism a decade back, the wide use of the internet and social media in particular will ensure that those caught in the act will not be forgotten in a hurry.


For instance, I am sure India Today group chairman and editor-in-chief Aroon Purie had no role to play in his signed editorial picking up generously from a article two years back. Sadly, whenever there is a discussion on plagiarism, his name will surface in the list of well-known Indian editors indulging in the act. In fact, a Wikipedia entry on the media baron has a fairly visible mention of the Slate case.


I guess the same would hold true for Fareed Zakaria. This is what Zakaria’s bio reads on the homepage of his website (

Fareed Zakaria hosts CNN’s flagship foreign affairs show, is Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine, a Washington Post columnist, and a New York Times bestselling author. Esquire Magazine called him “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation.”


The Wikipedia entry on Zakaria already highlights the plagiarism case.


Books on media history and ethics will now have one more way to describe Fareed Zakaria: great mind, writer, TV host, author and a plagiarist.




Mediaah! is written by Pradyuman Maheshwari, senior journalist and Editor-in-Chief and CEO, MxMIndia. He can be reached at: pradyumanm[at], Gtalk, BBM 29FEA79C. Twitter @pmahesh and of course the mobile: 98338 76278. The views expressed here are his own.


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