Orwell Prize statement on Johann Hari

June 30, 2011

The Orwell Prize became aware of allegations concerning Johann Hari, the winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2008, on Monday 27th June. (Johann Hari has also been shortlisted for the Prize in the past, and entered this year’s Prize.) Given the seriousness of the allegations that have been made, we feel we have no choice other than to investigate further.

The Council of the Orwell Prize takes the integrity and reputation of the Orwell Prize, and the rigour, fairness and transparency of the entry and judging process, very seriously. As stated on Tuesday 28th June, there is a process to follow in such situations, which we have been following since Monday and continue to pursue.

Our judges in 2008 – Annalena McAfee, Albert Scardino and Sir John Tusa – are highly distinguished and chose the winners independently and in good faith after a thorough judging process. We do not interfere with the choices of our judges and we ask them only to judge the submitted pieces. No allegations have been made against Johann Hari’s 2008 Orwell Prize-winning pieces.

Prior to presenting the award, as part of our due diligence, one of the judges contacted Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, who expressed his full confidence in the Hari articles. The Prize cannot investigate the provenance of every piece of work entered, and so relies on the integrity of the entrants and the editorial processes which help produce the work.

Since 2008 the entry process has been made more robust still. The governance of the Prize has been reformed, and all entrants are required to sign a disclaimer, declaring that the submitted work ‘is wholly or substantially that of the named author or authors, and does not contain any plagiarised or unacknowledged material’.

We are currently in touch with the judges from 2008 and the governing Council of the Orwell Prize, and have written to Johann Hari and his editor, Simon Kelner. We will allow our inquiry to run its course before issuing a further statement.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, prizes are awarded to the work – for the book, for the journalism and for the blog – which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Each Prize is worth £3000.

2. The Prize was founded by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in its present form in 1993, awarding its first prizes in 1994. The Media Standards Trust, Political Quarterly and Orwell Trust are partners in running the Prize, through the Council of the Orwell Prize. Richard Blair (Orwell’s son), A. M. Heath and Thomson Reuters are sponsors.

3. For further information, please contact the Deputy Director, Gavin Freeguard, at gavin.freeguard@mediastandardstrust.org, or on 0207 229 5722.