Luke Harding

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Luke Daniel Harding (born 1968) is a British foreign correspondent working for The Guardian newspaper. He was the correspondent of The Guardian in Russia from 2007 until, returning from a stay in the UK on February 5, 2011, he was refused re-entry to Russia and deported back the same day.[1] The Guardian said his expulsion was linked with his critical articles on Russia,[2] while Russia's foreign ministry said that an extended certificate of foreign correspondence was not obtained in time.[3] After the reversal of the decision on February 9 and the granting of a short-term visa, Harding chose not to seek a further visa extension.[2]

His 2011 book Mafia State discusses his experience in Russia and the political system under Vladimir Putin, which he describes as a mafia state.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Harding studied English at University College, Oxford. While there he edited the student newspaper Cherwell. He worked for the Sunday Correspondent, the Evening Argus in Brighton and then the Daily Mail before joining The Guardian in 1996.

He has lived in and reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.[4]


In 2007, The Guardian apologized for material in an article by Harding that was "substantially similar" to another article published earlier that year in the eXile.[5][6]

Russian expulsion[edit]

In February 2011 Harding was refused re-entry into Russia. He became the first foreign journalist to be expelled from Russia since the end of the Cold War. The Guardian said his expulsion was linked with his unflattering coverage of Russia, including speculation about Vladimir Putin's wealth and Putin's knowledge of the London assassination of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.[2] The director of Index on Censorship, John Kampfner, said "The Russian government's treatment of Luke Harding is petty and vindictive, and evidence – if more was needed – of the poor state of free expression in that country."[7] Elsa Vidal, head of the European and Central Asia desk at the media freedom watchdog, said: "This is a serious and shocking step, unprecedented since the Cold War [...] It's an attempt to force correspondents working for foreign media in Moscow to engage in self-censorship."[8]

The expulsion preceded a visit to Britain by Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, which led to suggestions from Labour MP Chris Bryant that the British government might rescind Lavrov's invitation.[9] On 9 February Russia reversed the decision not to re-admit him[2] although it only granted him a short term visa. Harding chose not to seek a further visa and returned to the UK in February. Harding has said that during his time in Russia he was the subject of largely psychological harassment by the Federal Security Service, whom he alleges were unhappy at the stories he wrote.[10]

In an interview with the BBC during his visit to London in February 2011, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to a question concerning Harding's entry to Russia as follows:

"I looked into the case of Luke Harding when William Hague called me. Indeed he had some problems with his stay in Russia in the past. He was visiting areas where he knew he must get a special permission to visit. He recognizes that this is something that he should have done differently. In spite of this, when he requested for his visa to be extended until May this year – so his kids could finish the school year. This was granted and he was issued an extended certificate of foreign correspondent, he did not pick it up, he urgently moved to London though this certificate was ready and if he wants to work in Russia he must just, you know, resolve this issue and get this certificate and we announced yesterday that there would be no problem with his coming here provided again that he wants to work in Russia. If he wants to discuss this issue endlessly through the media, this would be his choice. On, you know, this entire incident it’s a technical situation that must be resolved if he wants it to be resolved, we are ready for this. But when people say, I read some comments in the British media today – including in the Guardian – that the absence of this accreditation card is not the reason for not allowing to enter because he has a valid visa. I know for sure that UK legislation and Anglo-Saxon countries legislation in general, be it US, UK or Canada clearly states availability of a visa does not mean you can enter and the decision whether you can or not is always taken is always taken by the immigration officer who looks at your passport. So there is nothing unusual. Again, it is a technical matter. If he wants it to be resolved and if he wants to work in Russia as long as his visa allows, he’s welcome to do so." [3]

Harding is currently based at the Guardian's office in London.[11]

Edward Snowden[edit]

Harding's 2014 take on Edward Snowden, The Snowden Files, was fiercely criticised by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who said, "It is a bullshit book." At the time he said this, Greenwald had only read extracts from Harding's book. Later, after reading the whole book, he conceded that it did not trash Snowden. On February 14, 2014 Greenwald told the Financial Times: "They are purporting to tell the inside story of Edward Snowden but it is written by someone who has never met or even spoken to Edward Snowden. Luke came here and talked to me for half a day without [my] realising that he was trying to get me to write his book for him. I cut the interview off when I realised what he was up to." The Financial Times has since amended the article stating: "Harding insists that when he spoke to Greenwald in Rio, he made it very clear he was doing research for his book on Snowden."[12]

The book received positive reviews from the The Guardian[13] and the London Review of Books, who called it "a super-readable, thrillerish account of the events surrounding the reporting of the documents".[14] Conversely, The Daily Telegraph's David Blair wrote: "Harding’s story crackles with verve, but complexity and nuance are banished. In particular, the real dilemmas of intelligence work are ignored."[15]

Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, Michiko Kakutani, wrote in her review for The New York Times that the book "reads like a le Carré novel crossed with something by Kafka".[16]


  • Libya: Murder in Benghazi and the Fall of Gaddafi (October 20, 2012), co-written with Martin Chulov. Short e-book, account of the moment of Gaddafi's capture and the current state of Libya.[19]
  • The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man, Vintage Books (NY, February 7, 2014), ISBN 978-0804173520; Guardian Faber Publishing (UK, February 6, 2014), ISBN 978-1783350353. Harding tells Edward Snowden's story from the day he left his girlfriend in Honolulu carrying a hard drive full of secrets, to the weeks of his secret-spilling in Hong Kong, to his battle for asylum and his exile in Moscow.

Notes and References[edit]


^a Published in the US as Expelled


External links[edit]