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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hari takes on Harry

We note that award-winning journalist Johann Hari has come into a spot of bother regarding his recent article in the Independent (and a longer version thereof in the American journal Dissent).

Not as much bother, however, as seems to have befallen Harry's Place (a leftish blog which is nevertheless supportive of liberal interventionist foreign policy). It seems that a piece posted at Harry's Place which was generally supportive of Nick Cohen's superb book What's Left, which Hari criticised in his original article, has drawn attention from lawyers representing the Independent. As a consequence all or most comment on the issue has been removed from Harry's Place.

Certain comments on the Harry's Place site were interpreted by Hari and his employers' legal team as implying that Hari might have an excessively (ahem) imaginative approach to his work. It is strange that the Independent's legal team might chose to threaten an impecunious bunch of bloggers at Harry's Place, rather than Nick Cohen or Oliver Kamm, who also commented widely on the issue, and who might actually have the financial resources to defend a libel action. It is strange also that the Independent's legal team did not choose to take on the might of Private Eye, who made certain allegations some time ago, and who are famed for a kamikaze-like determination to see off intimidatory libel actions.

We do not doubt Hari's sincerity in supporting the concept of freedom of speech, which he was prepared in a recent article to extend even to the extremist Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. It is a shame then that he feels unable to extend the same courtesy to his erstwhile colleagues at Harry's Place. It is indeed damaging for a journalist to be accused of fabricating stories. It is scarcely less damaging to be seen to be silencing critics through legal intimidation.

You can read Nick Cohen's response to Johann Hari's review along with updates on links related to the story here.