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Johann Hari Suspended: Columnist Put On Hold For Two Months

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British newspaper The Independent has suspended journalist Johann Hari for two months pending an investigation into allegations that he used an online alias to bash fellow journalists who had criticized him.

Observer columist Nick Cohen and former New Statesman deputy editor Cristina Odone are among those who found their Wikipedia entries trashed by a user named "David r from Meth Productions" after disagreements with Hari, while Hari's own page remained spotless. Cohen found wild accusations on his page after responding to an inaccurate review that Hari had written about one of his books. "As well as learning that I was a probable alcoholic, a hypocrite and a supporter of Sarah Palin, I noticed that all reviews of my work were missing except Hari's effort," he wrote.

Odone, who had criticized Hari's work at the New Statesmen, also found that her Wikipedia page contained allegations that she was 'homophobe' and an 'anti-Semite' and "such a disastrous journalist that the Catholic Herald had fired her," Cohen reported. He continued:

Her husband, Edward Lucas, went online to defend her reputation, but 'David r from Meth Productions' tried to stop him. Mr 'r' gave the same treatment to Francis Wheen, Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson after they had spats with Hari. It didn't stop there. Lucas noticed that anonymous editors had inserted Hari's views on a wide range of people and issues into the relevant Wikipedia pages, while Hari himself had a glowing Wikipedia profile -- until the scandal broke, that is -- much of it written by 'David r'.

"David r from Meth Productions" took to Wikipedia to defend Hari against comparisons with disgraced journalists Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass in 2005, and claimed to work shifts at the Independent after it was discovered that the Wikipedia user accessed the Internet from an IP address at the paper's offices. An investigation by British blogger David Allen Green also found pornography attributed to the Wikipedia user's email address.

Hari was accused of plagiarism earlier this month after his profile of Afghan women's rights activist Malalai Joya contained quotes from her book as if she had said them to him directly.

Hari is the latest British journalist to find himself in the hot seat as sordid details of the News of the World phone hacking scandal continue to emerge.

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Filed by Katherine Fung