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”.
“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.