UK Independent Suspends Journalist Johann Hari

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Johann Hari announced on his blog that the Independent, which has suspended him, doesn't want him commenting publicly right now. (Credit:, screenshot)

The Independent suspended journalist Johann Hari following last month’s public criticism of Hari for lifting quotes. According to the BBC, his suspension is “pending the outcome of an internal investigation.”

The Irish Times reported that the Independent’s editor Chris Blackhurst stated that Hari “has been suspended for two months pending the outcome of an internal inquiry. We have no further comment to make.”

iMediaEthics wrote last month when UK bloggers and journalists like Deterritorial Support Group (DSG) and Yahoo Ireland editor Brian Whelan noted that Hari, an interviewer, lifted quotes from books and other interviews and placed them in his reported interviews as if the quotes were said to him. Specifically, Hari’s interviews with Hugo Chavez, Toni Negri, and Gideon Levy are under fire for lifting from a New Yorker interview, the book Negri on Negri, and Haaretz, respectively.

Hari denied charges of “plagiarism or churnalism,” but did admit that his actions were wrong.  Salon called it “quote-recycling.”

What Hari did isn’t a clear-cut case of plagiarism or lack of attribution, as the Telegraph’s Toby Young noted last month.  While Hari did attribute the idea to the source (the interviewee), he didn’t indicate to readers that the comment or idea was made in another outlet as opposed to in the interview with Hari.  “What Hari is doing is actively claiming that the interviewee said those specific quotes to him, Johann Hari,” Young explained, which isn’t the case.

Regardless of its label, Hari’s quote lifting is “misleading” as his interviews incorrectly guide readers to believe that precise comments were obtained by him in an interview with his subject. Hari explained that he only substituted quotes when he “interviewed a writer” who said “an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing — and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in speech.”

The Guardian reported that the Independent will be looking into both claims of quote-lifting and claims that Hari engaged in “sock-puppetry,” by adopting a fake identity in an online comment to defend himself.

The Guardian re-directed to David Allen Green’s Jack of Kent blog for further explanation of the “sock-puppetry” charges.  Green questioned the identity “David r” that was used to defend Hari on Wikipedia. While “David r” denied being Hari — but did explain he is “a friend” of Hari’s), a Wikipedia editor reportedly realized “David r” has the same IP address as the Independent newspaper, where Hari works.

Meanwhile, the Orwell Prize council revoked Hari’s 2008 Orwell Prize, the Washington Post reported.

UPDATE: 08/03/2011 10:18 AM EST: Added a link.

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UK Independent Suspends Journalist Johann Hari

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