NPR has deleted a story from its website, an intern's first-person account of witnessing a public execution in Kabul, after learning that parts of it were plagiarized from someone else's story published in 2001. An editor's note now holds the place of the story on NPR.org, though it can still be found online
. (Here's a screenshot
in case it's deleted.)
Late Monday night, this message was sent on behalf of Margaret Low Smith, NPR's senior VP for news:
Earlier today, we published and distributed a story by Ahmad Shafi recounting his experience witnessing a public execution in Kabul in 1998. Since the story was published, it has come to our attention that portions of the piece were copied from a story by Jason Burke, published by the London Review of Books in March 2001. We have "unpublished" the piece by Ahmad Shafi and ask that all stations remove the story from their websites, as well.
Shafi is an NPR intern. He came to DC after working for us in our Kabul bureau as a producer and fixer. We deeply regret this incident. ...
Jason Burke is a British journalist; Shafi says in his account that he was working for a female British journalist when he saw the execution. Burke said he sat high in the stands of the football stadium
where the execution occurred, while Shafi says he saw the execution from the field.
Shafi writes that a recent public execution reminded him of the one in 1998. Portions of his account of the execution are word-for-word copies of Jason Burke's account
; other parts are slightly rewritten. According to NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher, Shafi was at the execution:
What happened is fairly simple: an intern made a mistake. English is not Shafi’s first language; it’s one of five he speaks. In writing about this execution he witnessed in 1998, he went looking for a better way to describe what he remembered seeing. When asked about the similar passages by our editors, he was completely upfront and honest, and deeply contrite.