The Washington Post

Johann Hari stripped of Orwell Prize

Johann Hari’s Twitter avatar. (Image from Twitter)

Hari, who writes for the Independent, has denied plagiarism amid continuing allegations that he often recycled quotes instead of getting them from his interviews.

A spokesman for the Council of the Orwell Prize said “a clear and unanimous decision” has been reached to take the award for political journalism Hari won in 2008, though Hari did not have a chance to defend himself. The Independent has also suspended Hari and launched a plagiarism investigation.

In June, several bloggers took Hari to task for similarities they found between a profile he wrote on Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and writings by Levy in an Israel newspaper, and a profile he did on Italian Marxist Antonio Negri and a 2003 book on Negri.

Hari defended himself on his blog at the time, writing:

When I’ve interviewed a writer, it’s quite common that they will express an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing — and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in writing than in speech. ... I’m bemused to find one blogger considers this ‘plagiarism

On Twitter, bloggers’ criticism of Hari soon turned into a hashtag #interviewsbyhari, which was used to create funny situations in which Hari interviewed a subject and took the famous lines they’d said as his own. One tweet read: “I remember backpacking with Martin Luther King, and one morning over breakfast he told me about a dream he’d had #interviewsbyhari.”

The hashtag was successfully used to paint Hari’s defense of his cut-and-paste jobs as ludicrous.

More recently, Hari spoke about the allegations in a talk he gave on free speech on July 7 at the Royal Institution in London. This time, Hari did not try to defend himself, saying, “I did something idiotic, and some people use their freedom of speech to point that out.”

“The real test of free speech is not to support it when people are saying you’re great, it’s do you support it when people are saying something painful and humiliating about you. And I absolutely do.”


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