Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Orwell Prize: New statement on Johann Hari

The Council of the Orwell Prize has issued a statement "to clarify a few points" about the Orwell Prize for Journalism awarded to Johann Hari in 2008 and subsequently returned.

The Council says "it can confirm that, subject to any further representations by Hari, the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008 would have been vacated in any case".

It also says: "On 30 June 2011 the Council said that it would be investigating the basis for allegations made about Hari's work. This included writing to Johann Hari and to the (then) editor of The Independent, with a number of questions.

"Hari responded; the editor did not, either to this or a subsequent set of queries. The Orwell Prize has no independent capacity to research the work that is submitted. It relies on the integrity of authors and of their publisher’s editorial practices.

"On the 21 July (as stated on 15 July) an emergency meeting of the Council met ‘to consider our review of Johann Hari’s material and material submitted by the public before that time’. The Council considered one article submitted by Hari in 2008, ‘How multiculturalism is betraying women’ (The Independent, 30 April 2007), on the basis of the evidence which had been received.

"The Council concluded that the article contained inaccuracies and conflated different parts of someone else’s story (specifically, a report in Der Spiegel). The Council ruled that the substantial use of unattributed and unacknowledged material did not meet the standards expected of Orwell Prize-winning journalism.

"The Council drafted a decision, saying that subject to a deadline, it would announce that the Prize was vacated, but that Hari would be given an opportunity to make any further representations in his defence and an opportunity to ‘apologise to the judges, the other applicants, the Prize and the public, and to resign the Prize before the announcement’.

"However, the Council found that The Independent had prohibited Hari from responding to any communication while the paper’s own investigation, conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith, was in progress. (This also appears to have prevented Hari from answering a second email sent to him before the Council meeting.)

"As a result, the Council decided that it was impossible to announce the decision as it could not communicate with Hari, nor give him the opportunity to reply (as stated on 25 July). On the afternoon of 14 September, a courier returned the plaque which had been awarded to Johann Hari on winning the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008. There was no note of explanation. The prize money (£2000) has also not been returned. The director of the Prize telephoned the editor of The Independent who confirmed that Hari had returned the Prize, which was also confirmed later by Hari’s ‘A personal apology’, published online by The Independent.

"The Council of the Orwell Prize accepted Hari’s return of the Prize. Annalena McAfee, Albert Scardino and Sir John Tusa – the Journalism Prize judges from 2008 – have decided not to re-award the 2008 Prize, despite the high quality journalism on that year’s shortlist.

"The Council would like to apologise to those who entered the Journalism Prize 2008. We also apologise to the judges, for not being able to conduct a fair assessment at the time. It is also grateful to those who persisted in examining Hari’s articles and brought the discrepancies to the Council’s attention."

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