Johann Hari

Johann Hari, who has been suspended from the Independent for four months after admitting plagiarism

The financial backers of the Orwell Prize have decided not to pursue Independent columnist Johann Hari over the money he won as part of the 2008 award, despite the prize organisers concluding that his submission plagiarised the work of others.

Hari returned the prize earlier this month after an internal investigation by the Independent revealed that he had plagiarised quotes and used an online alias to maliciously edit the Wikipedia pages of other journalists.

In a statement issued today, the Prize said that "How multiculturalism is betraying women", published by the Independent in April 2007, "contained inaccuracies and conflated different parts of someone else’s story (specifically, a report in Der Spiegel)".

The organisers of the award also confirmed that the Orwell Prize Council had decided to revoke Hari's award prior to the columnist's announcement that he would return it.

But despite arranging for the prize itself to be couriered back to its organisers, Hari has not heeded calls to return the £2,000 he won and the financial backers of the award have decided not to pursue the matter.


The Orwell Prize is jointly funded by the Media Standards Trust and journal Political Quarterly. The prize money is provided by Political Quarterly, which unlike the Media Standards Trust is not a charity and therefore less likely to come under pressure to demand the return of the £2,000.

Jean Seaton, the director of the Orwell Prize and a member of the Political Quarterly board, told Journalism.co.uk that the Prize wanted the "cleanest decision possible".

Seaton said that a request for the money to be returned had initially been submitted to the Independent after the newspaper refused to allow the Prize to contact Hari directly.

But no response, or confirmation that the request had been passed to Hari, was provided.

Seaton said that the Prize had "no resources" to pursue the return of the money, and simply wanted to "close down the issue".

"As far as we are concerned at the Prize, this is the end of the matter," she said.

The Orwell Prize and Political Quarterly has invited Hari to make a donation in the amount of the prize to press freedom charity English PEN, of which George Orwell was a member, but no donation has yet been made.

The Prize also announced today that the 2008 award will not be given to one of the other shortlisted candidates that year. Journalism.co.uk understands that the Orwell Prize council established to review Hari's prize – made up of the 2008 judges Annalena McAfee, Albert Scardino and Sir John Tusa – has decided to leave that year's prize vacant as a statement on Hari's actions.

The Independent announced earlier this month that the columnist had admitted plagiarism and was being suspended from the newspaper for four months in order to undertake journalism training.

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