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International Roberto Saviano at the Journalism Festival, Perugia, Italia in 2011. (Credit: Giancarlo Belfiore via Wikipedia)

Italian author Roberto Saviano denies plagiarizing in his new book Zero Zero Zero.

Journalist Michael Moynihan, who busted Jonah Lehrer for fabrication back in 2012, accused Saviano of plagiarism and possible fabrication in a Sept. 24 article for the Daily Beast.

“Saviano hasn’t just written a bad book,” Moynihan wrote. “He’s written an astonishingly dishonest book. ZeroZeroZero is stuffed with reporting and writing plundered from lesser-known journalists; it includes interviews with ‘sources’ who may not exist (more on this in a moment); and it contains numerous instances of unambiguous plagiarism.”

Moynihan wrote that Saviano responded to the plagiarism accusation arguing that his enemies were trying to take him down.

“Analyzing random paragraphs from ZeroZeroZero, as described below, I frequently found examples of research and language pilfered from other journalists, not encased in quotation marks, and not cited,” Moynihan wrote. “Of course, one cannot footnote plagiarism (and there are no footnotes in ZeroZeroZero). But readers are left with the distinct impression, promoted by Saviano himself, both in the book and various interviews, that ZeroZeroZero is built on his globe-spanning reporting junkets, his deep dives into various archives, and the testimony of anonymous insiders. Indeed, Saviano told me that the book is made up of ‘hundreds of conversations and interviews with protagonists, judicial investigations from all over the world, books, articles, movies, news reports, and facts which I studied for many years…'”

As examples, Moynihan provided side-by-side comparisons of text from ZeroZeroZero with articles from other sources including the Los Angeles Times and the Village Voice.

Saviano told Moynihan “none of the characters that you met in ZeroZeroZero were invented. Every one of them, from the first to the last, is real,” but acknowledged creating composite characters. He added that his book should be categorized as “not simply journalism, but is a nonfiction novel” and that he isn’t a journalist. (Moynihan countered that Saviano’s book and news articles identify him as a journalist.)

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Saviano responded with an article in La Repubblica that said the Daily Beast report was an attempt to “discredit” him since the book is so successful.

“My job is exactly that: to tell what happened, in my style, in my interpretation. They accuse me of having taken the words of others: as if you could copy the description of a documentary,” he wrote, according to a Google translate.

He added to the UK Observer: “Why is it original in any way to report figures that are indicated in statistics accessible to all? If you describe TheGodfather, are you plagiarising The Godfather?”

“Saviano, who has lived under police protection since 2006 after publishing his acclaimed investigation into the Naples mafia, Gomorrah, released Virginia Jewiss’s English translation of Zero Zero Zero in July,” the Guardian reported.

iMediaEthics has written to Saviano for  further comment.

See Moynihan’s article here and Saviano’s response.

UPDATE: 10/10/2015 iMediaEthics’ Oct. 2 e-mail to Saviano just bounced back.

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