Johann Hari

Johann Hari has been suspended as a columnist for the Independent, pending an investigation. Photo: internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Independent columnist Johann Hari has been suspended for two months while an internal investigation is carried out following accusations of plagiarism.

Last month Hari was at the centre of a Twitter storm after having admitted using unattributed quotes in several of his articles.

In a statement today the Independent's new editor Chris Blackhurst confirmed Hari's two month suspension pending the outcome of an investigation, and said there was no further comment.

The Orwell Prize Council has already begun its own investigation into the claims, in relation to Hari's win of the accolade in 2008.

Accusations of plagiarism arose after quotes from several of his interviews were shown to have been taken from other books and from interviews by other journalists.

Writing in the Independent following the furore, Hari insisted accusations of plagiarism were false, but added that he did have "something to apologise for".

"When you interview a writer – especially but not only when English isn't their first language – they will sometimes make a point that sounds clear when you hear it, but turns out to be incomprehensible or confusing on the page.

"In those instances, I have sometimes substituted a passage they have written or said more clearly elsewhere on the same subject for what they said to me, so the reader understands their point as clearly as possible.

"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. I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words."

He added that he had, however, thought carefully about whether there was an error in what he did, saying "Yes. I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn't do it again."

"I'm sorry, and I'm grateful to the people who pointed out this error of judgement. I will make sure I learn from it."

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Media Show at the time, former Independent editor Simon Kelner - who is now editor in chief - said while what Hari did was "wrong" it was born from an honest ambition.

"In the great scheme of things it's not a great scandal, it's a naive error which we recognise".

He added that the Independent was investigating at the time "who knew and what they knew", adding that "of course we're going to look at some of the pieces he's done in the past and review them".

But when asked if there was a case for disciplinary action to be taken he said: "I think the punishment should fit the crime and I think Johann has been punished enough for the vilification he has had on Twitter".

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