John Pilger, campaigning journalist, dies aged 84

Last Updated on January 2, 2024 11:37 am

Australian journalist and documentary film-maker John Pilger has died aged 84, his family have announced on 31 December.

A statement posted to his account on X said: “It is with great sadness the family of John Pilger announce he died yesterday 30 December 2023 in London aged 84.

“His journalism and documentaries were celebrated around the world, but to his family he was simply the most amazing and loved Dad, Grandad and partner. Rest In Peace.”

Pilger, born in South Wales, relocated to the UK in the 1960s, where he went on to work for the Daily Mirror, ITV’s former investigative programme World in Action, and Reuters. Throughout his career, he was a strong critic of western foreign policy and his native country’s treatment of Indigenous Australians, reports The Guardian.

He was named journalist of the year in 1967 and 1979 and was widely known for covering conflicts in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Biafra.

Pilger, who had a successful career in documentary film-making, creating more than 50 films and winning a number of accolades includes honours at the Baftas, says The Guardian.

Kevin Lygo, the managing director of media and entertainment at ITV, said: “John was a giant of campaigning journalism. He had a clear, distinctive editorial voice which he used to great effect throughout his distinguished filmmaking career. His documentaries were engaging, challenging and always very watchable.

“He eschewed comfortable consensus and instead offered a radical, alternative approach on current affairs and a platform for dissenting voices over 50 years.

“John’s films gave viewers analysis and opinion often not seen elsewhere in the television mainstream. It was a contribution that greatly added to the rich plurality of British television.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with John’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.”

Pilger made a number of films about Indigenous Australians such as The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight Back in 1985 and Utopia in 2013, as well as writing a bestselling book, A Secret Country, which explored the politics and policies of Australia.

His last film, The Dirty War on the National Health Service, was released in 2019 and examined the threat to the NHS from privatisation and bureaucracy. It was described by the Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw as “a fierce, necessary film”.

In 2003, Pilger received the Sophie prize for “30 years of uncovering the lies and propaganda of the powerful, especially as they relate to wars, conflict of interests and economic exploitation of people and natural resources”.

Pilger was a vocal supporter of Julian Assange and visited the WikiLeaks founder in the Ecuador embassy in London where he sought asylum after facing charges related to the publication of thousands of classified documents.

Assange’s wife, Stella, wrote on X: “Our dear dear John Pilger has left us. He was one of the greats. A consistent ally of the dispossessed, John dedicated his life to telling their stories and awoke the world to the greatest injustices.

“He showed great empathy for the weak and was unflinching with the powerful. John was one of Julian’s most vocal champions but they also became the closest of friends. He fought for Julian’s freedom until the end.”

The former Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, who has also supported Assange, said of Pilger: “I miss you my friend, what a great man you were. We will carry you in our hearts forever, you will always be there to give us strength. Love R.”

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