UPDATE: The Orwell Prize has issued a statement about the plagiarism allegations surrounding Johann Hari: "Given the seriousness of the allegations that have been made, we feel we have no choice other than to investigate further." Hari, who has frequently blogged for The Huffington Post in the past, won the prize in 2008.
ORIGINAL STORY: A 2009 interview with Afghan women's rights activist Malalai Joya by Johann Hari, a journalist at The Independent, is calling the definition of plagiarism into question.
The 4,000-word piece "appears to pass off a number of quotes and formulations from her book, 'Raising my Voice', as if they were direct speech from an interview he conducted with her in a London flat," The Guardian reports. And this is not the only time; The Islam Versus Europe blog "cites 15 examples of duplications in phraseology from the book which Joya published the same year in which Hari subsequently printed the interview."
Hari denies that this practice is plagiarism. The British journalist issued a statement on Thursday via his blog:
Yesterday on Twitter I was accused of plagiarism. This accusation is totally false – but I have reflected seriously on this and do have something to apologize for.
When you interview a writer – especially but not only when English isn’t their first language – they will sometimes make a point that sounds clear when you hear it, but turns out to be incomprehensible or confusing on the page. In those instances, I have sometimes substituted a passage they have written or said more clearly elsewhere on the same subject for what they said to me so the reader understands their point as clearly as possible. The quotes are always accurate representations of their words, inserted into the interview at the point where they made substantively the same argument using similar but less clear language. I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words.
I stress: I have only ever done this where the interviewee was making the same or similar point to me in the interview that they had already made more clearly in print. Where I described their body language, for example, I was describing their body language as they made the same point that I was quoting – I was simply using the clearer words from their writing so the reader understood the point best.
Hari defines plagiarism as "presenting somebody else's intellectual work are your own." He therefore dismisses all claims that he has committed plagarism because he has "always accurately attributed the ideas" to the person in question; not himself.
Plagiarism or not, Hari recognizes that he's at fault. He continued:
"Was it an error in another way? Yes... I wouldn't do it again. Why? Because an interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee. If (for example) a person doesn’t speak very good English, or is simply unclear, it may be better to quote their slightly broken or garbled English than to quote their more precise written work, and let that speak for itself."
"Since my interviews are long intellectual profiles, not ones where I’m trying to ferret out a scoop or exclusive, I have, in the past, prioritized the former," He wrote. "That was, on reflection, a mistake, because it wasn’t clear to the reader.
"I'm sorry," Hari concluded. "And I’m grateful to the people who pointed out this error of judgement. I will make sure I learn from it."
Unfortunately, Hari may not get that chance. The Guardian notes that his position at The Independent is uncertain, along with the Orwell prize he won in 2008 for excellence in political reporting of which he may be stripped.