Johann Hari Apologizes For Plagiarism, Takes Leave From Independent

Columnist Apologizes Over Major Scandal, Accepts Punishment

After being accused of repeated acts of plagiarism and stripped of a major prize, columnist Johann Hari apologized for his journalistic misconduct in a column on Wednesday.

Hari was a top columnist at the Independent (and a frequent blogger for The Huffington Post) when, in July, he was suddenly charged with having lifted large chunks of material from Afghan activist Malalai Joya's book and passed them off as portions of his interview with Joya. Hari denied having plagiarized, but admitted he had made mistakes. He was then suspended by the Independent while the paper did an internal review of his work.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Independent said that Hari "admits the central accusations made against him."

In his Wednesday column, Hari chalked his missteps up to wanting to give the clearest representation of his interviewees' thoughts. He explained, "When I recorded and typed up any conversation, I found something odd: points that sounded perfectly clear when you heard them being spoken often don’t translate to the page."

He blamed sheer ignorance, writing that he didn't know how wrong he was and that he should have asked his experienced colleagues to explain his errors.

Hari also confessed to writing slanderous Wikipedia entries about colleagues who had criticized him. Observer columist Nick Cohen and former New Statesman deputy editor Cristina Odone had voiced suspicions that Hari had edited their Wikipedia pages. On Wednesday, he admitted, "I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you."

Hari announced that he will be taking a leave of absence from the Independent until 2012, during which time, he said, he would "undertake a program of journalism training." He has also returned the George Orwell Prize, which he was awarded in 2008, and will post footnotes for all of his articles online.

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