John Pilger

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John Pilger

At the Hull Literature Festival, 2006
Born 9 October 1939 (1939-10-09) (age 69)
Sydney, Australia
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality Australian
Occupation Journalist, writer, documentary filmmaker
Children Two

John Richard Pilger (born 9 October 1939) is an Australian journalist and documentary maker. One of only two to win Britain's Journalist of the Year Award twice, his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the US.[1][2] Based in London, he is known for his polemical campaigning style: "Secretive power loathes journalists who do their job, who push back screens, peer behind façades, lift rocks. Opprobrium from on high is their badge of honour."


[edit] Life and career

Pilger was born in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney. He attended Sydney Boys High School, where he started a student newspaper, The Messenger. He began as a copy boy with the Sydney Sun in 1958 and later moved to the city's Daily Telegraph. In the early 1960s he was recruited by the British Daily Mirror. He has been based in London ever since.

During the Daily Mirror 's campaigning heyday Pilger became its star reporter, particularly on social issues. He was a war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh and Biafra. Later, TV documentaries and books cemented his reputation. An early film, Year Zero, was credited with bringing to world attention the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.[3] Later documentaries have exposed human rights abuses in the Israeli-occupied territories, in East Timor, in Iraq as a consequence of UN sanctions, and elsewhere.

In 1987 Pilger was involved with the left-wing tabloid News on Sunday which launched to great fanfare but went bankrupt eight weeks later. Named as editor-in-chief, he fell out with the editor and the paper's backers and walked out before the first issue.[4]

Pilger has received human rights and journalism awards, as well as honorary doctorates. He has twice been named Britain's Journalist of the Year.

Pilger has a son, Sam (born 1973) and a daughter, Zoe (born 1984).

[edit] Political views

[edit] Western foreign policy

Since his early years as a war correspondent in Vietnam, Pilger has been a trenchant critic of the foreign policy of many Western countries. He is particularly opposed to many aspects of United States foreign policy, which he regards as being driven by a largely imperialist agenda.

[edit] Mainstream journalism

Pilger is a strong critic of the institutions and economic forces that structure 'mainstream' journalism. In an address at Columbia University on 14 April 2006, he said:[5]

During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. 'I have to tell you,' said their spokesman, 'that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were by and large, the same. To get that result in our country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don't have that. What's the secret? How do you do it?'

He is particularly scornful of pro-Iraq war commentators on the liberal left, or 'liberal interventionists', such as Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch.

In addition to criticizing the policies of United States President George W. Bush, Pilger has also taken aim at former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he believes to be just as culpable as President Bush for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In his column published in New Statesman on 25 July 2005, Pilger ascribed blame for the 2005 London bombings that took place the same month to Blair, whose decision to follow Bush helped to generate the rage that he maintains precipitated those bombings.[6]

In the same column a year later, Pilger described Blair as a war criminal for supporting Israel's actions during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. He also asserted that Blair gave permission to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 to initiate what would ultimately become Operation Defensive Shield.[7]

[edit] Support of Hugo Chavez

Pilger is a supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.[8] In May 2007 he co-signed and put forward a letter supporting the refusal of the government of Venezuela to renew the broadcasting licence of Venezuela's largest television network Radio Caracas Televisión, as they openly supported a 2002 coup attempt against the democratically elected government. Pilger and other signatories suggest that if the BBC or ITV used their news broadcasts to publicly support a coup against the British government, they would suffer similar consequences.[9] Other groups, such as Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have described the RCTV decision as an effort to stifle freedom of expression.[10]

[edit] Diego Garcia

Pilger has written articles about the depopulation of Diego Garcia by the United Kingdom during the 1970s. He has strongly criticised Tony Blair for not making any real response to the 2000 High Court ruling that the British expulsion of the island's natives to Mauritius in order to make way for a US Air Force base had been illegal.[11]

[edit] Quotes

on American foreign policy and the War on Terror
  • "There is no War on Terrorism; it is The Great Game speeded up. The difference is the rampant nature of the superpower, ensuring infinite dangers for us all."[12]
  • "More terrorists are given training and sanctuary in the United States than anywhere on earth. They include mass murderers, torturers, former and future tyrants and assorted international criminals. This is virtually unknown to the American public, thanks to the freest media on earth."[12]
  • On the September 11 attacks: "In these surreal days, there is one truth. Nothing justified the killing of innocent people in America last week and nothing justifies the killing of innocent people anywhere else."[13]
  • "During my lifetime, America has been constantly waging war against much of humanity: impoverished people mostly, in stricken places."[13]
on censorship
  • "The censorship is such on television in the U.S. that films like mine don't stand a chance."[14]

[edit] Praise and criticism

Conservative humorous writer Auberon Waugh coined the verb "to pilger": "to present information in a sensationalist manner to reach a foregone conclusion".[citation needed] Noam Chomsky has expressed the view that pilger and pilgerise were "invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule."[15]

The Sydney Morning Herald 's conservative columnist and former Chief of Staff for John Howard, Gerard Henderson is one of Pilger's most vocal critics.[16] According to Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, "John Pilger is fearless. He unearths, with steely attention to facts, the filthy truth, and tells it as it is... I salute him."[17] John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor, has said, "A country that does not have a John Pilger in its journalism is a very feeble place indeed."[18]

[edit] Chronology

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Books

  • The Last Day (1975)
  • Aftermath: The Struggles of Cambodia and Vietnam (1981)
  • The Outsiders (1984)
  • Heroes (1986)
  • A Secret Country (1989)
  • Distant Voices (1992 and 1994)
  • Hidden Agendas (1998)
  • Reporting the World: John Pilger's Great Eyewitness Photographers (2001)
  • The New Rulers of the World (2002)
  • Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (ed.) Cape (2004)
  • Freedom Next Time (2006)

[edit] Plays

  • The Last Day (1983)

[edit] Articles

Pilger has been published in, amongst others, the following:

[edit] Selected documentaries

  • Vietnam-The Quiet Mutiny 1971
  • An Unfashionable Tragedy 1975
  • Zap-The Weapon is Food 1976
  • Do You Remember Vietnam 1978
  • Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia 1979
  • The Mexicans 1980
  • Heroes 1980
  • Burp! Pepsi V Coke in the Ice Cold War 1982
  • In Search Of Truth In Wartime 1982
  • Nicaragua. A Nations Right to Survive 1983
  • The Secret Country-The First Australians Fight Back 1985
  • Japan Behind the Mask 1987
  • Cambodia: The Betrayal 1990
  • War By Other Means 1992
  • Cambodia: Return to Year Zero 1993
  • Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy 1994
  • Flying the Flag, Arming the World 1994
  • Vietnam: the Last Battle 1995
  • Inside Burma: Land of Fear 1996
  • Breaking the Mirror - The Murdoch Effect 1997
  • Welcome To Australia 1999
  • Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq 2000
  • The New Rulers of the World 2001-2002
  • Palestine Is Still the Issue 2002
  • Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror 2003
  • Stealing a Nation 2004
  • The War on Democracy 2007

[edit] DVDs

[edit] Awards

Awards include:

  • Descriptive Writer of the Year (1966)
  • Reporter of the Year (1967)
  • Journalist of the Year (1967)
  • International Reporter of the Year (1970)
  • News Reporter of the Year (1974)
  • Campaigning Journalist of the Year (1977)
  • Journalist of the Year(1979)
  • UN Media Peace Prize, Australia (1979 – 80)
  • UN Media Peace Prize and Gold Medal, Australia (1980 – 81)
  • TV Times Readers' Award (1979)
  • United Kingdom Academy Award (1990)
  • The George Foster Peabody Award, USA (1990)
  • American Television Academy Award ('Emmy') (1991)
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts – The Richard Dimbleby Award (1991)
  • Reporters Sans Frontiers Award, France (1990)
  • International de Television Geneve Award (1995)
  • The Monismanien Prize, Sweden (2001)
  • The Sophie Prize for Human Rights, Norway (2003)
  • EMMA Media Personality of the Year (2003)
  • Royal Television Society – Best British Documentary for Stealing a Nation (2004)
  • One World Media Awards - TV Documentary Award for his ITV1 film The War on Democracy, on the role of Washington in Latin American politics. (2008)[19]

Degrees and honorary degrees:

[edit] Footnotes

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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