On 22 October I wrote the blog post ‘What transnational couples really need‘. In it, I highlighted the obstacles in the way of young transnational couples seeking to settle down in Singapore. The article generated some interest, thanks to the helpful sharing and retweeting of some friends. I also did a short radio interview with 938 LIVE on Saturday to talk about the issue.
This morning I found this letter in TODAY’s Voices section: ‘Help foreign spouses get PR to better overcome hurdles‘. I’ve screencapped the article, because I expect that TODAY will remove the letter.
Chunks of the article are word-for-word lifts from my blog post. This is the relevant section of what I wrote in my blog last week:
“What we, and I suspect many other transnational couples, need from the government is an acknowledgement of family migration that transcends the fear of sham marriages and people abusing the system and trying to get social welfare. According to the National Population and Talent Division, four in ten marriages registered in Singapore last year were transnational. This doesn’t include couples who, like Calum and I, were married overseas before coming to Singapore. Transnational families are not a tiny minority who can be ignored for much longer.
Transnational families need foreign spouses to be allowed to work, so that he/she can choose to work rather than be financially dependent. Transnational couples need to be eligible for affordable housing from the beginning of the marriage, and not just when the Singaporean is over 35. If the PR process could be expedited for family migrants, that would probably solve those two issues, as well as give transnational couples peace of mind.“
I alerted TODAY to the plagiarism at about noon today. The editor thanked me for my email and requested permission to forward my email to the letter-writer Eunice Li to get her response. I agreed.
I haven’t heard back from TODAY yet, and at the time of the writing of this blog post the letter is still up on their website.
Then I received a comment from Ms Li on my blog:
I wasn’t angry when I first saw the plagiarised article this morning. I was more curious as to why someone would bother plagiarising a letter to a newspaper’s forum pages. I would have been satisfied with an apology from the plagiarist and the newspaper removing the article.
What angers me now is that Ms Li is not only not sorry for having copied my writing word-for-word, but characterises it as having “helped me raise awareness”. Not only is she unrepentant, she appears to expect me to be grateful!
Apart from the fact that I don’t require any unsolicited “help” to raise awareness of an issue I am perfectly capable of speaking out on myself, as a freelance journalist my words are how I earn a living. I might not have earned any money from my blog post, but that was my choice.
So do I mind that my words were stolen from me? Yes. And what I mind most of all is that the writer does not seem to understand what she’s done wrong: she has even updated her blog to share the plagiarised piece.
I’m assuming that Ms Li only decided to leave a comment on my blog after receiving an email from TODAY. Even if that’s not the case, a person who has a blog to catalogue her “writing achievements”, who was identified by The Straits Times as Writer of the Week last year, and who says that she is “still thinking” about compiling her writing into a book, should be more aware about the importance of ownership and respect for other writers.
Update @ 6:42pm: Ms Li’s next comment on my blog post…
Update @ 6:54pm: Upon seeing the below comment from Ms Li I feel like I should make it super clear – I have to be especially sensitive about my writing because it is how I earn a living, but one should just not plagiarise, period. Like, NEVER EVER.
Update @ 1:20am, Wednesday: TODAY has amended Ms Li’s letter. The new version can be found here; she has rewritten the parts of the letter that were previously plagiarised. TODAY has also added a note below the letter to acknowledge the plagiarism and to link to my blog post.
Although I would have done things very differently if I were TODAY, I don’t really want to drag the matter out and am choosing to move on.