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Sat 17 Sep 2011 12:34 PM

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Dubai-bashing journo Hari admits plagiarism

Johann Hari will return journalism prize and take unpaid leave after admitting charges

Dubai-bashing journo Hari admits plagiarism
Independent columnist Johann Hari had previously accused Dubai of being "morally bankrupt"

Dubai-bashing British writer Johann Hari has made a public apology and returned a prestigious journalism prize after admitting plagiarism.

Hari, whose portrayal of Dubai included describing the city as being built on “suppression and slavery”, also admitted using a pseudonym to attack his critics online in an open apology written for the Independent newspaper.  

In a 1,174-word apology published by the paper, the George Orwell prize winner admitted doing “wrong and stupid things” and breaching “the most basic ethical rule”.

[To read the full apology, click here]

“I’ve written so many articles over the years laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of other people. This time, I am writing an article laying bare and polemicising against the errors and idiocies of myself,” he said.

Hari was exposed after a reader noticed he had lifted quotes from past interviews and books to use in his copy without attributing the source. Further allegations claimed Hari used an online alias to edit Wikipedia entries for journalists that criticised his work, a charge he now admits.

“I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this,” he said.  

The journalist said he would be returning the George Orwell Prize and taking and unpaid leave of absence from the Independent to complete a journalism training course.

“So first, even though I stand by the articles which won the George Orwell Prize, I am returning it as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews. But this isn’t much, since it has been reported that they are minded to take it away anyway,” he said.

“So second, I am going to take an unpaid leave of absence from The Independent until 2012, and at my own expense I will be undertaking a programme of journalism training.

“And third, when I return, I will footnote all my articles online and post the audio online of any on-the-record conversations so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.”

On his website, the columnist describes himself as an “award-winning journalist, who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, and the Huffington Post.”

Hari’s 8,860-word article ‘The Dark Side of Dubai’ was published in the wake of the financial crash, and portrayed a “morally bankrupt” city with “abusive laws” and authorities complicit in the ill-treatment of workers.

The copy made headlines in the Gulf in 2009, after describing the city as being built on “credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery”.

“It’s a medieval dictatorship” a source named Karen is quoted as saying in the article.

Said Hamideh 8 years ago

I've read the Hari piece on Dubai. It seems he may have formulated all his opinions in under a one week's stay. In that amount of time he would've needed to rely on whatever preconceptions he packed in his bags.

Based on the landmarks he recounts, I can practically visualize his itinerary and route. It is clear he chose to overlook parts of Dubai which have been around for centuries.

Also, he could've gained some insight from spending some time taking in some of the local culture. But that takes time as locals aren't holding signs up at the airport.

I just think it's sad when journalism gets confused for opinion pieces. Doesn't seem like he tried very hard to work against the grain of pre-packed narratives that are easily accessible to anyone.

I suspect it might be therapeutic for others in the West to read about how some emergent economies falter in their attempt to catch up to grand civilizations which could have never existed without a centuries-long legacy of colonialism.

Susan Macaulay 8 years ago

Journalistic integrity vindicated!

Mr. Hari's irresponsible "reportage" in 2009 was a travesty. As I wrote to him then:

"...sensationalistic, inflammatory and obviously biased accounts such as yours do little to resolve the problems of the world."

Mr Hari got what he deserved for his reprehensible behaviour: public ridicule and the embarrassment of having to admit his sins.

Birdie 8 years ago

This is Karma. All Dubai bashers, beware.

Marcellus Ramone Kelley 8 years ago

"If we had to pay for the air we would talk less"

Suhail Shafi 8 years ago

Johann Hari is a serial slanderer, a disgrace and an embarassment to the journalistic profession. His diatribe against Dubai represented yellow journalism at its very worse. I for one am glad this hack has been exposed for what he is.

peter 8 years ago

Read the article again before you write anything cause you have clearly not understood what the whole thing is about.

Red Snappa 8 years ago

Sensationalist and a plagiarist he may have been, but as we all know it is not all sweetness and light in this region and the fact that we have been directed to examine the darker underbelly even by subterfuge is no bad thing. The man made us think if nothing else.

It is unrealistic to insist that journalists do not write anything bad about or detrimental to a place or society, but it is also censorship. And it is impossible to stop foreign journalists doing as much, we live with it the world over.

John 8 years ago

Well said.

If journalists here can't (or won't) write the truth then it's good that the free British press can and does.

jorge 7 years ago

People who slander their enemies as "slanderers" only make themselves look like they have something to hide. "Slanderer" is not something I would find insulting; on the contrary, I think people offended by slander have a deep-seeded guilty consciousness and are trying hard to get away with something they don't really believe themselves capable of getting away with.

I think it's a shame that Hari has broken his vow as a journalist, and wrote his story the lazy way, but I don't necessarily think that people who have an existential motivation to purger themselves in this way sacrifice believability. What he describes Dubai to be is very believable. Would more factual investigation reveal it to be untrue?