British columnist Johann Hari has been stripped of the Orwell Prize, one of Britain's most prestigious journalism awards.
The organizers of the prize announced that they had reached a "clear and unanimous decision" on Monday, following accusations that Hari fabricated parts of his award-winning piece. Though the organizers refused to announce the decision in public, it is all-but-certain that the prize has been revoked.
Hari won the prize in 2008 in part for his emotional account of covert French military action inside the Central African Republic. The integrity of the article is now in question after the charity that brought him there alleged that he exaggerated the extent of destruction in the country and made up quotes. Perhaps the most notable deviation from the facts, they charged, was a fabricated quote attributed to a French soldier saying, "Children would bring us the severed heads of their parents and scream for help, but our orders were not to help them."
The charity worker who translated for Hari on the trip reiterated these charges on Wednesday, telling the Telegraph she is "absolutely adamant that the soldiers didn’t say that children came brandishing the heads of their relatives." The charity—which is remaining anonymous to avoid being tarred by Harri—also released emails it had sent to the columnist in 2007, questioning his delay in sending it notes and taking issue with several of his quotes.
Calls for the embattled British journalist to hand back the prize began when he was accused of plagiarism in July. The Independent later suspended him for two months after allegations that he trashed the Wikipedia pages of fellow journalists who had criticized his work.
The Independent has also launched its own internal inquiry into Hari's work. In response, Hari issued a one sentence statement: "The Independent has asked me not to make any public comment until its inquiry has reported in September."
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