Orwell Prize launches investigation into Johann Hari

The organisers of the Orwell Prize are investigating whether The Independent writer Johann Hari should be allowed to keep the award for political journalism which we won in 2008.

The Orwell Prize Council released a statement this afternoon saying that the seriousness of the allegations against Hari – who has admitted inserting unattributed quotes into his articles but rejected claims of plagiarism – meant they had ‘no choice but to investigate further”.

They are now in contact with the 2008 judges – Annalena McAfee, Albert Scardino and Sir John Tusa – and have written to Hari and his editor at The Independent Simon Kelner.

Since evidence emerged that Hari had lifted quotes from unattributed sources, including from old interviews and books written by his subjects, he has been hit by a fresh round of more serious allegations claiming he has inserted quotes into his interviews that were written by other journalists.

Hari won the 2008 Orwell Prize for five articles which included ‘France’s Secret War’in the Central African Republic, a cruise with American right-wingers, and a look at Gordon Brown’s intellectual hero James Maxton.

Organisers said that no allegations have been made against any of the prize-winning pieces.

When he was awarded the prize Hari was praised by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Scardino for producing work that combined ‘courageous reporting and forceful writing with honest analysis”.

Today’s statement said: ‘We do not interfere with the choices of our judges and we ask them only to judge the submitted pieces.

‘Prior to presenting the award, as part of our due diligence, one of the judges contacted Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, who expressed his full confidence in the Hari articles.

‘The Prize cannot investigate the provenance of every piece of work entered, and so relies on the integrity of the entrants and the editorial processes which help produce the work.

‘Since 2008 the entry process has been made more robust still. The governance of the Prize has been reformed, and all entrants are required to sign a disclaimer, declaring that the submitted work ‘is wholly or substantially that of the named author or authors, and does not contain any plagiarised or unacknowledged material.'”

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