Journalists have been forced to temporarily remove articles critical of powerful oil lobbyists due to exploitation of US copyright law, according to a new report.
According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Program (OCCRP), at least five of these articles have been the subject of false copyright claims, including one by the respected South African newspaper Mail & Guardian.
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Complaints falsely claiming ownership of articles – filed by anonymous individuals under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law that protects copyright holders.
Last month, three separate complaints were filed against Diario Rompe, an investigative newspaper devoted to Equatorial Guinea. The incriminating articles were written by Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, and his close associate, Cameroonian businessman and lawyer N.J. Life related.
OCCRP said in a report released Wednesday that the DMCA process is often abused by “unknown parties” who create fake backdated articles aimed at critical reporting. Under US law, any online author who claims their content has been stolen can request a “takedown” of the alleged content infringement by initiating a formal legal process through the web servers hosting the equipment.
The process varies by server provider, but it means content is pulled from the Internet for several weeks while the original author proves its authenticity.
The OCCRP has yet to identify who is behind these attacks, but all of the articles were critical of NJ Ayug. NJ Ayuk, also known as Njock Ayuk Eyong, is the CEO of African law firm Centurion Law Group and founder of the African Energy Chamber (AEC).
He is also a strong supporter of the oil industry in Africa. Mr. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, the other involved in the two stories. Ayug has a close relationship.
Mr. Obiang Lima was Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons until the recent cabinet reshuffle.
From Centurion Law Group and AEC Mr. Ayug issued press releases. It will criticize his oil lobbying activities and Mr. Obiang will publicly attack journalists who question his close relationship with Lima.
The first false copyright claim targeting reports about Mr Ayuk was made in 2019, following the publication of an article in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian (M&G) entitled Fraudster named in SA’s oil deal.
The article examined Mr Ayuk’s involvement in a multi-hundred million dollar oil deal between South Africa and South Sudan. Mr Ayuk was charged with fraud in the US in 2007 after pleading guilty to illegally using a congressional stationery and signature stamp to obtain visas for fellow Cameroonians.
After the article was published, the M&G’s Linnet web server was contacted by “Ian Simpson”, claiming to be the original author of the article. In response to this complaint, Lynott took down the media outlet’s entire website in one morning.
The M&G investigated and found there was no US address given and no other online record of the allegations. The M&G concluded that “The Simpsons” and its articles were fake, but before restoring the rest of the M&G’s website, Mr. Lynott forced the newspaper to remove the article on Ayug.
In an article devoted to the withdrawal, the M&G called the move a “censorship attack”. Mr. Ayug, two UN In partnership with agencies, “UN Offers Platform to Convict Fraudsters Pushing Off African Case”.
This article highlighted the role played by the African Energy Chamber in private investment, Team Energy Africa, a flagship initiative of the UN.
The UN canceled the initiative following the publication of the article.
Two weeks later, Climate Home News’ AWS server received copyright claims for both the “Thomas L. Peers” and “Marcus A. Webre” articles. The complainants could not be located and emails sent to the addresses provided by them were not responded to.
AWS told Climate Home that it may take action against the matter if it cannot confirm that it has been successfully resolved.
Climate Home editor Megan Darby has deleted articles while addressing the issue of false claims with AWS. Climate Home took several weeks to retrieve the articles.
Ms. Darby told OCCRP, “These bogus allegations seem like a low-level ploy to stifle a free press.” Articles written by them. Two were on its Cloudflare server and one on Google. They targeted two 2021 articles published in collaboration with OCCRP, which Mr. Ayuk and Mr. Obiang criticized his relationship with Lima.
Google removed the second article from its search results. He reinstated it only after Diario Rompe filed a ‘counter-opinion’.
The editor of Diario Rombe, Delfin Mocache Massoko, said: “These copyright complaints for a small, unfunded media like Diario Rombe are causing great damage to our work.
Mr. from the internet. I believe the author has only one task to remove all the negative information about Ayug and Lima. “Contacted by the BBC, Mr. Ayuk strongly denied the allegations of corruption, and the AEC and Centurion Legal Group denied the allegations made by the OCCRP, including bogus rights claims. Editor.
Gabriel Mgeba Obiang Lima did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
OCCRP contacted AWS, Google, and Cloudflare for their comments on the fake copyright complaints, but they did not respond.
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