Chris Blackhurst says sacking Johann Hari could have 'created a problem' legally

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst has suggested that sacking columnist Johann Hari in the wake of plagiarism revelations could have presented legal difficulties partly because of the stance taken by his predecessor Simon Kelner.

In an interview with The Guardian today, he said that former Independent editor Andreas Whittam Smith – who was asked to investigate the Hari affair – concluded in his report that Hari’s behaviour was “serious, but it didn’t warrant his dismissal”.

And he said that as the report was also sent by Whittam Smith to Hari, it made it difficult for him to reach a different conclusion – The Guardian reports. Blackhurst also noted in the interview that Kelner had made clear that he “didn’t regard it as job-ending”.

Blackhurst said: “…if I want to get into the legalities, that could have created a problem”.

Blackhurst also said that the BBC makes it “very hard to make the case for a paywall” for the Independent website in the UK, but that there might be a case for charging overseas readers.

And signalling his intention to move away from the poster-style front pages favoured by his predecessor, he said they “became non-serious, almost became quirky doing it day after day. It did mean when people went into the newsagent, they’d see other newspapers covering important stories, the Independent might have something completely different on the front page.”

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