Byline: Jason Deans
Johann Hari, the Independent interviewer and columnist accused of plagiarism, has been suspended for two months pending the outcome of an internal investigation by former Independent editor Andreas Whittam Smith.
Hari was accused of plagiarism last month by journalists and bloggers who condemned his practice of sometimes using quotes which he presented as being made to him in interviews, when in fact they were taken from older articles or the interviewees' own books.
He seemed to have survived the initial plagiarism allegations, but is now facing separate claims of "sock puppetry" - that he used an online alias to hit back at fellow journalists who had criticised his work. It is understood both allegations will be considered by Whittam Smith.
Chris Blackhurst, who replaced Simon Kelner as editor of the Independent earlier this month, said yesterday: "Johann Hari has been suspended for two months pending the outcome of an internal inquiry. We have no further comment to make."
The latest allegations to surface in the past week relate to claims that Hari used a pseudonym to make unflattering edits to the Wikipedia entries for journalists including Nick Cohen, the Observer and Spectator columnist, and Daily Telegraph writer and novelist Cristina Odone.
Kelner defended Hari when the initial plagiarism allegations surfaced in June, telling BBC Radio 4's The Media Show the criticism of his writer by bloggers and Twitter users was "politically motivated" and "fabricated anger".
He said Hari's practice of not attributing some interviewees' quotes was wrong. But he sought to defend him, saying it was not a great scandal and claiming that Hari had been unfairly vilified on Twitter.
Kelner confirmed that the paper was investigating which editors knew about Hari's interview technique, and said they would review some of his past articles.
Writing in the Independent on the same day as Kelner's Radio 4 interview, Hari apologised for his practice of sometimes using quotes taken from other interviews and presenting them as his own. "What Johann did was wrong. He accepts and we believe it," Kelner told The Media Show presenter Steve Hewlett.
Hari, a winner of the Orwell prize for political journalism, said he did have "something to apologise for" but he called accusations of plagiarism against him "totally false". He denied producing "churnalism" but said he had lessons to learn. "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," he added. "I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different."
Hari won the Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2008 for his work on American rightwingers; a report on Saudi Arabia, multiculturalism and women; and another on France's "secret war" in the Central African Republic.
The Orwell Prize, which is overseen by the Media Standards Trust, subsequently issued a statement saying no allegations have been made against Hari's 2008 Orwell prize-winning pieces, but that it has written to Hari and Kelner as part of its inquiry. It also added that the prize "cannot investigate the provenance of every piece of work entered and the editorial processes which help produce the work".
A spokeswoman for the Orwell Prize said yesterday that no further decisions have been made.
The Independent columnist Johann Hari faces an internal investigation