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Gay journalist Johann Hari expected to lose Orwell Prize

Jessica Geen July 26, 2011
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Gay journalist Johann Hari is expected to lose his Orwell Prize over allegations of plagiarism.

The 32-year-old was suspended by the Independent newspaper last month after bloggers spotted that he had used old quotes in interviews without attributing them.

Since then, further allegations have been made, including that he fabricated quotes, invented encounters and used a fake name to defend himself and smear other journalists on the internet.

In 2008, he became the youngest person to win the Orwell Prize, the prestigious journalism award. Since the claims emerged, the Council of the Orwell Prize, which is overseen by the Media Standards Trust, has been investigating his submissions.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the council said it had reached a “clear and unanimous decision” on whether Mr Hari should hand back the prize, but added it had been asked by the Independent to delay announcing its decision until the newspaper has finished its own investigation.

According to numerous reports, the council decided to strip him of the award.

The council said: “After extensive deliberation, the Council arrived at a clear and unanimous decision, which drew from the combined journalistic and academic expertise of its members.

“It also considered a representation by Johann Hari in its deliberation, and appropriate weight was placed upon it. The Council of the Orwell Prize is fully satisfied that it has adopted the appropriate procedure for an exercise of this kind.

“The Independent has now requested that the Council consider further representations by Johann Hari before announcing the decision. However, it would appear that Johann Hari is not permitted to make any further representations whilst The Independent’s investigation is conducted.

“In these circumstances, the Council of the Orwell Prize has reluctantly consented to delay any formal announcement as to the status of the 2008 Orwell Prize for Journalism until The Independent has completed its own investigation. We will take no further action and make no further statements until that time.”

Chris Blackhurst, the Independent’s new editor, told the Daily Telegraph: “We had hoped the Council of the Orwell Prize would delay reaching their decision about Johann Hari’s prize until The Independent had completed its own inquiry – due in less than two months.

“We’re disappointed that the Council appear to have reached a verdict without Johann being able to defend himself fully.”

Mr Hari, who has written extensively about gay rights, has not commented.

Related topics: gay journalist, Independent, Johann Hari

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