John Pilger

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John Pilger
John Pilger in August 2011.jpg
John Pilger, 6 August 2011
Born John Richard Pilger
(1939-10-09) 9 October 1939 (age 76)
Sydney, Australia
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality Australian
Occupation Journalist, writer, documentary filmmaker

John Richard Pilger (born 9 October 1939)[1][2] is an Australian-born journalist based in London.[3] Pilger has lived in the United Kingdom since 1962.[4][5] Since his early years as a war correspondent in Vietnam, Pilger has been a strong critic of American, Australian and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. Pilger has also criticised his native country's treatment of indigenous Australians and the practices of the mainstream media.

His career as a documentary film maker began with The Quiet Mutiny (1970), made during one of his visits to Vietnam, and has continued with over fifty documentaries since then. Other works in this form include Year Zero (1979), about the aftermath of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy (1993). Pilger has long criticised his native country's treatment of indigenous Australians and has made many documentary films on this subject including The Secret Country (1985) and Utopia (2013). In the British print media, he has had a long association with the Daily Mirror, and wrote a regular column for the New Statesman magazine from 1991 to 2014.

Pilger has twice won Britain's Journalist of the Year Award. His documentaries, screened internationally, have gained awards in Britain and worldwide. The journalist has also received several honorary doctorates.[6][7]

Early life and career[edit]

Pilger was born and raised in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney.[6] His father's ancestors were German[8] and his mother's were Irish, English and German; two of his maternal great-great-grandparents were Irish convicts transported to Australia.[9][10] His mother was a teacher of French.[9] He attended Sydney Boys High School,[6] where he started a student newspaper, The Messenger. He later joined a four-year journalist trainee scheme with the Australian Consolidated Press.[6]

Beginning his career in 1958 as a copy boy with the Sydney Sun, Pilger later moved to the city's Daily Telegraph, where he was a reporter, sports writer and sub-editor.[6] He also freelanced and worked for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, the daily paper's sister title. After moving to Europe, he was for a year a freelance correspondent in Italy.[11]

Move to Britain[edit]

Settling in London in 1962, working as a sub-editor, Pilger joined British United Press and then Reuters on its Middle-East desk.[11] In 1963 he was recruited by the English Daily Mirror, again as a sub-editor.[11] Later, he advanced to become a reporter, a feature writer, and Chief Foreign Correspondent for the title. While living and working in the United States for the Daily Mirror, on 5 June 1968 he witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles during his presidential campaign.[12]

During the next twenty years, Pilger became the Daily Mirror's star reporter, particularly on social issues. He was a war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh and Biafra. Nearly eighteen months after Robert Maxwell bought the Mirror (on 12 July 1984), Pilger was sacked by Richard Stott, the newspaper's editor, on 31 December 1985.[13]

Early television work[edit]

Pilger's career on television began on World in Action (Granada Television) in 1969, for whom he made two documentaries broadcast in 1970 and 1971, the earliest of more than fifty in his career. The Quiet Mutiny (1970) was filmed at Camp Snuffy, presenting a character study of the common US soldier during the Vietnam War. It revealed the shifting morale and open rebellion of American troops. Pilger later described the film as "something of a scoop" – it was the first documentary to show the problems with morale among the drafted ranks of the US military.

"When I flew to New York and showed it to Mike Wallace, the star reporter of CBS' 60 Minutes, he agreed. "Real shame we can't show it here"", Pilger said in an interview with the New Statesman.[14]

He made additional documentaries about the United States involvement in Vietnam, including Vietnam: Still America's War (1974), Do You Remember Vietnam? (1978), and Vietnam: The Last Battle (1995).

During his work with BBC's Midweek television series during 1972–73,[15] Pilger completed five documentary reports, but only two were broadcast.

Pilger was successful in gaining a regular television outlet at ATV. The Pilger half-hour documentary series was commissioned by Charles Denton, then a producer with ATV, for screening on the British ITV network. The series ran for five seasons from 1974 until 1977,[15] at first running in the UK on Sunday afternoons after Weekend World. Later it was scheduled in a weekday peak-time evening slot. The last series included "A Faraway Country" (September 1977) about dissidents in Czechoslovakia, then still part of the Communist Soviet bloc. Pilger and his team interviewed members of Charter 77 and other groups, clandestinely using domestic film equipment. In the documentary Pilger praises the dissidents' courage and commitment to freedom, and describes the communist totalitarianism as "fascism disguised as socialism".[16]

Pilger was later given an hour's slot, placed in the 9pm slot before News at Ten, which gave him a high profile in Britain. Since ATV lost its franchise in 1981, he has continued to make documentaries for screening on ITV, initially for Central, and later via Carlton Television.

Documentaries and career: 1978–2000[edit]


In 1979, Pilger and two colleagues with whom he collaborated for many years, documentary film-maker David Munro and photographer Eric Piper, entered Cambodia in the wake of the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime. They made photographs and reports that were world exclusives. The first was published as a special issue of the Daily Mirror, which sold out. They also produced an ITV documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,[17] which brought to people's living rooms the suffering of the Khmer people.

Following the showing of Year Zero, some $45 million was raised, unsolicited, in mostly small donations, including almost £4 million raised by schoolchildren in the UK. This funded the first substantial relief to Cambodia, including the shipment of life-saving drugs such as penicillin, and clothing to replace the black uniforms people had been forced to wear. According to Brian Walker, director of Oxfam, "a solidarity and compassion surged across our nation" from the broadcast of Year Zero.[18] Pilger and Munro made four later films about Cambodia. During the filming of Cambodia Year One, they were warned that Pilger was on a Khmer Rouge 'death list.' In one incident, they narrowly escaped an ambush. The British Film Institute (BFI) has described Year Zero as one of the ten most influential documentary films of the 20th century.[citation needed]

Pilger in 2006 described the British reaction to Year Zero:

The documentary as a television "event" can send ripples far and wide... Year Zero not only revealed the horror of the Pol Pot years, it showed how Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's 'secret' bombing of that country had provided a critical catalyst for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. It also exposed how the West, led by the United States and Britain, was imposing an embargo, like a medieval siege, on the most stricken country on earth. This was a reaction to the fact that Cambodia's liberator was Vietnam – a country that had come from the wrong side of the Cold War and that had recently defeated the US. Cambodia's suffering was a wilful revenge. Britain and the US even backed Pol Pot's demand that his man continue to occupy Cambodia's seat at the UN, while Margaret Thatcher stopped children's milk going to the survivors of his nightmare regime. Little of this was reported. Had Year Zero simply described the monster that Pol Pot was, it would have been quickly forgotten. By reporting the collusion of "our" governments, it told a wider truth about how the world was run... Within two days of Year Zero going to air, 40 sacks of post arrived at ATV ... in Birmingham – 26,000 first-class letters in the first post alone. The station quickly amassed £1m, almost all of it in small amounts. "This is for Cambodia," wrote a Bristol bus driver, enclosing his week's wage. Entire pensions were sent, along with entire savings. Petitions arrived at Downing Street, one after the other, for weeks. MPs received hundreds of thousands of letters, demanding that British policy change (which it did, eventually). And none of it was asked for. For me, the public response to Year Zero gave the lie to clichés about "compassion fatigue", an excuse that some broadcasters and television executives use to justify the current descent into the cynicism and passivity of Big Brotherland. Above all, I learned that a documentary could reclaim shared historical and political memories, and present their hidden truths. The reward then was a compassionate and an informed public; and it still is."[19]

In a 2007 speech, "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire", Pilger described his experience with executives of the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). They refused to screen Year Zero, which, according to Pilger, has never been broadcast in the USA.[20]

Pilger's documentary Cambodia – The Betrayal (1990), prompted a libel case against him, which was settled at the High Court with an award against Pilger and Central Television in favor of the plaintiffs during the hearing. The Times of 6 July 1991 reported:

Two men who claimed that a television documentary accused them of being SAS members who trained Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to lay mines, accepted "very substantial" libel damages in the High Court yesterday. Christopher Geidt and Anthony De Normann settled their action against the journalist John Pilger and Central Television on the third day of the hearing. Desmond Browne, QC, for Mr Pilger and Central Television, said his clients had not intended to allege the two men trained the Khmer Rouge to lay mines, but they accepted that was how the program had been understood.[21]

Australia's indigenous peoples[edit]

Pilger has long criticised aspects of Australian government policy, particularly what he regards as its inherent racism resulting in the poor treatment of its indigenous peoples. In 1969 Pilger went with Australian activist Charlie Perkins on a tour to Jay Creek in Central Australia. He compared what he witnessed in Jay Creek to South African apartheid.[22] He saw the appalling conditions that the Aboriginal people were living under, with children suffering from malnutrition and grieving mothers and grandmothers having had their lighter skinned children and grandchildren removed by the police and welfare agencies. Equally, he learned of aboriginal boys being sent to work on white run farms, and aboriginal girls working as servants in middle-class homes as undeclared slave labour.[23]

He has made several documentaries about indigenous Australians, such as The Secret Country – The First Australians Fight Back (1985), and has written a book on the subject, A Secret Country (1989). Pilger wrote in 2000 that the 1998 legislation that removed the common-law rights of indigenous Australians

"is just one of the disgraces that has given Australia the distinction of being the only developed country whose government has been condemned as racist by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination."[24]

Pilger returned to this subject with Utopia, released in 2013 (see below).

East Timor[edit]

In 1993 Pilger clandestinely entered East Timor and shot Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy. The film helped alert the British public to the "brutality" of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, which began in 1975. Death of a Nation contributed to an international outcry which ultimately led to Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor and eventual independence in 2000. When Death of a Nation was screened in Britain it was the highest rating documentary in 15 years and 5,000 telephone calls per minute were made to the programme's action line.[25] When Death of a Nation was screened in Australia in June 1994, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans declared that Pilger "had a track record of distorted sensationalism mixed with sanctimony."[26]

Documentaries and career since 2000[edit]

Later newspaper career[edit]

Pilger was a founder of the News on Sunday tabloid in 1984, and was hired as Editor-in-Chief in chief in 1986.[27] During the period of hiring staff, Pilger was away for several months filming The Secret Country in Australia. Prior to this, he had given editor Keith Sutton a list of people who he thought might be recruited for the paper, but found on his return to Britain that none of them had been hired.[28]

Pilger resigned before the first issue and had come into conflict with those around him. He disagreed with the founders decision to base the paper in Manchester and then clashed with the governing committees; the paper was intended to be a workers' co-operative.[29][30] Sutton's appointment as editor was Pilger's suggestion, but he fell out with Sutton over his plan to produce a left wing Sun newspaper.[29] The two men ended up producing their own dummies, but the founders and the various committees backed Sutton.[29] Pilger, appointed with "overall editorial control",[27] resigned at this point,[31] The first issue appeared on 27 April 1987. and The News on Sunday soon closed.

Pilger has a fortnightly column in New Statesman, his most frequent outlet, which began in 1991 while Steve Platt was editor of the magazine.[32] In 2001, while Piers Morgan was editor of the Mirror, Pilger returned to his old paper in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.[33]

Palestine Is Still the Issue[edit]

The broadcast of Pilger's documentary Palestine Is Still the Issue (2002), whose historical adviser was Ilan Pappé,[34] resulted in complaints by the Israeli embassy, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Conservative Friends of Israel that it was inaccurate and biased.[35] Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, the company that made the film, also objected to it in an interview,[36] but not at the time he had been shown it before transmission, according to Pilger, who rejected the criticism.[34][37]

The UK television regulator, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), ordered an investigation. Based on its investigation, the ITC rejected the complaints about the film, stating in its report:

The ITC raised with Carlton all the significant areas of inaccuracy critics of the programme alleged and the broadcaster answered them by reference to a range of historical texts. The ITC is not a tribunal of fact and is particularly aware of the difficulties of verifying 'historical fact' but the comprehensiveness and authority of Carlton's sources were persuasive, not least because many appeared to be of Israeli origin.[38]

The ITC concluded that in Pilger's documentary "adequate opportunity was given to a pro-Israeli government perspective" and that the programme "was not in breach of the ITC Programme Code".[38][39]

Diego Garcia[edit]

Pilger's documentary Stealing a Nation (2004) recounts the experiences of the late 20th-century trials of the people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s and 70s, British governments expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, settling them in Mauritius, with only enough money to live in the slums. It gave access to Diego Garcia, the principal island of this Crown Colony, to the United States (US) for its construction of a major military base for the region. In the 21st century, the US used the base for planes bombing targets in Iraq and Afghanistan in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

In a 2000 ruling on the events, the International Criminal Court described the wholesale removal of the indigenous peoples from the Chagos as "a crime against humanity." Pilger strongly criticised Tony Blair for failing to respond in a substantive way to the 2000 High Court ruling that the British expulsion of the island's natives to Mauritius had been illegal.

In March 2005, Stealing a Nation received the Royal Television Society Award, Britain's most prestigious documentary prize.

In May 2006, the UK High Court ruled in favour of the Chagossians in their battle to prove they were illegally removed by the UK government during the depopulation of Diego Garcia. This will pave the way for a return to their homeland. The leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, described it as a "special day, a day to remember". In May 2007, when the UK Government's appeal against the 2006 High Court ruling was dismissed, they took the matter to the House of Lords. In October 2008, the House of Lords ruled in favour of the Government, overturning the original High Court ruling.[citation needed]

Latin America[edit]

The documentary The War on Democracy (2007) was Pilger's first film to be released in the cinema. It was named Best Documentary at the 2008 One World Media Awards.[40] The film explores the historic and current relationship of the United States with such Latin American countries as Chile, Venezuela, and Bolivia. The film explores the role of US interventions since the 1950s, overt and covert, in toppling a series of governments in the region. It discusses reports of the US role in the overthrow in 1973 of the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile, who was replaced by the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who purportedly took part in secret campaigns against democratic governments in South America.

He explores the US Army School of the Americas in the US state of Georgia. Generations of South American military were trained there, with a curriculum including counter-insurgency techniques. Attendees reportedly included members of Pinochet's security services, along with men from Haiti, El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil and Argentina who have been implicated in human rights abuses.

The film also explores the attempted overthrow of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez in 2002. The people of Caracas rose up to force his return to power. It looks at the wider rise of populist governments across South America, led by figures calling for loosening ties with the United States and making a more equitable redistribution of the continent's natural wealth.

"[The film]" says Pilger, "is about the struggle of people to free themselves from a modern form of slavery". These people, he says, "describe a world not as American presidents like to see it as useful or expendable, they describe the power of courage and humanity among people with next to nothing. They reclaim noble words like democracy, freedom, liberation, justice, and in doing so they are defending the most basic human rights of all of us in a war being waged against all of us."[41]

In May 2007, Pilger co-signed and published a letter supporting the refusal of the government of Venezuela under Hugo Chávez to renew the broadcasting licence of Venezuela's largest television network Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), because it had 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.[42]

In contrast, international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have described Venezuela's refusal to renew the RCTV license as an effort to stifle freedom of the press and freedom of expression. They are concerned about the larger consequences of this means of disagreeing with the station's position.[43]

Critic of Blair, Bush and Obama[edit]

In 2003 and 2004, Pilger strongly criticised the policies of United States President George W. Bush, saying that he had exploited the 9/11 terrorist attacks in his 2003 invasion of Iraq and later occupation.[44] Pilger in 2004 criticized then British Prime Minister Tony Blair as equally responsible for the invasion and the bungled occupation of Iraq.[45] In 2004, as the Iraq insurgency increased, Pilger wrote that the anti-war movement should support "Iraq's anti-occupation resistance:"

"We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the "Bush gang" will attack another country."[46]

His support for the Iraqi insurgency was criticised at the time by some, including Andrew Bolt. He described Pilger as an "apologist for terrorists".[47] Oliver Kamm, writing for The Times in 2006, commented: "By reputation the exemplar of radical conscience, Pilger turns out to be the voice of brutishness."[48]

On 25 July 2005, Pilger ascribed blame for the 2005 London bombings that month to Blair. He wrote that Blair's decision to follow Bush helped to generate the rage that Pilger said precipitated the bombings.[49]

In his column a year later, Pilger described Blair as a war criminal for supporting Israel's actions during the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict. He said that Blair gave permission to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 to initiate what would ultimately become Operation Defensive Shield.[50]

Pilger criticised Barack Obama during his presidential campaign of 2008, saying that he was "a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan"[51] and his theme "was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully". After Obama was elected and took office in 2009, Pilger wrote, "In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government".[52] Sunny Hundal wrote in The Guardian during November 2008 that the "Uncle Tom" slur used against Obama "highlights a patronising attitude towards ethnic minorities. Pilger expects all black and brown people to be revolutionary brothers and sisters, and if they veer away from that stereotype, it can only be because they are pawns of a wider conspiracy."[53] Gerard Henderson, a conservative Australian newspaper columnist, accused Pilger later in 2009 of "engaging in hyperbole against western democracies."[54]

Julian Assange[edit]

John Pilger, Richard Gizbert, and Julian Assange - 'The Wikileaks Files' Book Launch - Foyles, London - 29 September 2015

With others,[55] Pilger supported Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, by pledging bail in December 2010. Pilger said at the time: "There's no doubt that he is not going to abscond".[56] Pilger featured the Wikileaks editor-in-chief in his documentary The War You Don't See (2010).[57] Pilger described the accusations against Assange in Sweden as a "political stunt"[58] consisting of "concocted charges",[59] an opinion British left-wing journalist Owen Jones has criticised.[60]

Pilger's bail money was lost in June 2012 when a judge ordered it to be forfeited. Assange had sought to escape the jurisdiction of the English courts by entering the embassy of Ecuador.[55] Pilger visited Assange in the embassy and continues to support him.[61] Speaking to an audience in Bali (Indonesia) in October 2012, Pilger asserted that Assange was criticised by journalists because "he shames us",[62] and criticised people who pretended to be allies of Assange, saying "WikiLeaks is a rare truth-teller. Smearing Julian Assange is shameful".[63]

Utopia (2013)[edit]

Main article: Utopia (2013 film)

With Utopia Pilger returns to the experiences of indigenous Australians and what he terms "the denigrating of their humanity".[64] A documentary feature film, it takes its title from Utopia, an Aboriginal homeland[65] in the Northern Territory.[66] Since the first of his seven films on the subject of the Aboriginal people, A Secret Country: The First Australians (1985), Pilger says that "in essence, very little" has changed.[67] In an interview with the UK based Australian Times he commented: "the catastrophe imposed on Indigenous Australians is the equivalent of apartheid, and the system has to change."[68]

Charlotte O'Sullivan in the London Evening Standard observes that "what brings the material alive is Pilger’s visit to Mutitjulu" where an Australian Broadcasting Corporation television programme in 2006 concocted an entirely fictitious story about a paedophile ring run by community leaders resulting in a "land grab".[69] Reviewing the film, Peter Bradshaw writes: "The awful truth is that Indigenous communities are on mineral-rich lands that cause mouths to water in mining corporation boardrooms."[70] "When the subject and subjects are allowed to speak for themselves – when Pilger doesn’t stand and preach – the injustices glow like throbbing wounds", wrote Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times, but the documentary maker "goes on too long. 110 minutes is a hefty time in screen politics, especially when we know the makers’ message from scene one."[71]

According to Geoffrey Macnab, this is an "angry, impassioned documentary"[64] while for Mark Kermode it is a "searing indictment of the ongoing mistreatment" of the first Australians.[72]

Criticism of the mainstream media[edit]

Pilger has criticised many journalists of the mainstream media. During the administration of President Bill Clinton in the US, Pilger attacked the British-American Project as an example of "Atlanticist freemasonry." He asserted in November 1998 that "many members are journalists, the essential foot soldiers in any network devoted to power and propaganda."[73] In 2002 he said that "many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what Orwell called the official truth."[74]

In 2003, he was scornful of pro-Iraq War commentators on the liberal left, whom he called 'liberal interventionists', such as David Aaronovitch, a "right-wing provocateur" who wears the mask of being a "'liberal'".[75] Aaronovitch responded to an article by Pilger about the mainstream media[76] in 2003 as one of his "typical pieces about the corruption of most journalists (ie people like me [Aaronovitch]) versus the bravery of a few (ie people like him)."[77]

In an address at Columbia University on 14 April 2006, he said:

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?'[78]

On another occasion, while speaking to journalism students at the University of Lincoln, Pilger said that mainstream journalism means corporate journalism. As such, he believes it represents vested corporate interests more than those of the public.[79]

Honours and awards[edit]

Praise and criticism[edit]


  • In Breaking the Silence: The Films of John Pilger,[83] his appraisal of the journalist's documentaries, Anthony Hayward wrote, "For half a century, he has been an ever stronger voice for those without a voice and a thorn in the side of authority, the Establishment. His work, particularly his documentary films, has also made him rare in being a journalist who is universally known, a champion of those for whom he fights and the scourge of politicians and others whose actions he exposes."[84]
  • Noam Chomsky said of Pilger: "John Pilger's work has been a beacon of light in often dark times. The realities he has brought to light have been a revelation, over and over again, and his courage and insight a constant inspiration."[85]
  • According to Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate and member of the Stop the War Coalition, "John Pilger is fearless. He unearths, with steely attention to facts, the filthy truth, and tells it as it is... I salute him."[7]
  • Martha Gellhorn, the American novelist, journalist and war correspondent, said that "[John Pilger] has taken on the great theme of justice and injustice... He documents and proclaims the official lies that we are told and that most people accept or don't bother to think about. [He] belongs to an old and unending worldwide company, the men and women of conscience. Some are as famous as Tom Paine and William Wilberforce, some as unknown as a tiny group calling itself Grandmothers Against The Bomb.... If they win, it is slowly; but they never entirely lose. To my mind, they are the blessed proof of the dignity of man. John has an assured place among them. I'd say he is a charter member for his generation."[86]
  • 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."[87]


  • The English writer Auberon Waugh, writing in The Spectator in the 1980s in response to an article Pilger had written alleging Thai complicity in child trafficking (whose research was challenged), coined the verb "to pilger", defined as: to present information in a sensationalist manner to reach a foregone conclusion.[88] The word was included in the Oxford Dictionary of New Words in 1991, but removed from the subsequent edition after Pilger complained.[89] Some sources said that he threatened legal action.[90] Noam Chomsky responded to Waugh's neologism by stating that "pilgerize" was "invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule."[91]
  • The writer William Shawcross has described him as "one of the worst journalists writing in the English language".[92]
  • The Anglo-American writer Christopher Hitchens said of Pilger: "I remember thinking that his work from Vietnam was very good at the time. I dare say if I went back and read it again I'd probably still admire quite a lot of it. But there is a word that gets overused and can be misused – namely, anti-American – and it has to be used about him. So that for me sort of spoils it... even when I'm inclined to agree."[93]
  • The Economist‍‍ '​‍s Lexington columnist commented on Pilger's account of the Arab uprising:

Next up is the egregious John Pilger, who thinks the Arab revolts show that the West in general and the United States in particular are "fascist." ... Maybe he hasn't noticed, but what most of the Arab protesters say they want are the very freedoms that they know full well, even if Pilger doesn't, to be available in the West. No doubt he believes they are labouring under some massive mind-control delusion engineered by the CIA.[94]

  • The New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait responded to Pilger's 13 May 2014 column in The Guardian about Ukraine.[95] In the view of Chait, Pilger "defend[s] Vladimir Putin on the grounds that he stands opposed to the United States, which is the font of all evil" as a comical "attempt to cast land-grabbing, ultranationalist dictator Vladimir Putin as an enemy of fascism." [96] It has also been reported that Pilger's column contained a bogus quote from a non-existent Jewish Doctor which misleadingly gave the impression that the demonstrators expressed pro Nazi and antisemitic views while preventing the victims of the Odessa tragedy of 2 May from being rescued.[97][98]




  • The Last Day (1983)

Selected documentaries[edit]


  1. ^ Anthony Hayward, Breaking the Silence: The Television Reporting of John Pilger, London, Network, 2008, p. 3 (no ISBN, book contained within Heroes DVD, Region 2 boxset)
  2. ^ Trisha Sertori "John Pilger: The Messenger", The Jakarta Post, 11 October 2012
  3. ^ Andrei S. Markovits and Jeff Weintraub, "Obama and the Progressives: A Curious Paradox", The Huffington Post, 28 May 2008
  4. ^ "Aboriginal squalor among Australia's 'dirtiest secrets' says expat", by Candace Sutton, The Australian, 1 March 2013
  5. ^ "Pilger, John (1939–)" by Glen Jones, British Film Institute
  6. ^ a b c d e f Biography page, John Pilger's official website
  7. ^ a b "Introduction to John Pilger", Robert Fisk website Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ John Pilger A Secret Country, p. xiv
  9. ^ a b "Interview with John Pilger", Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, 18 February 1990
  10. ^ John Pilger Heroes, p. 10
  11. ^ a b c Hayward (2008), p.4
  12. ^ John Pilger & Michael Albert "The View From The Ground", Znet, 16 February 2013
  13. ^ Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2003 [2004 (pbk)], p. 401
  14. ^ John Pilger, "The revolution will not be televised", New Statesman, 11 September 2006
  15. ^ a b Hayward (2008), p.5
  16. ^ A Faraway Country,, Retrieved 23 January 2012
  17. ^ Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, video of programme on John Pilger's website.
  18. ^ John Pilger Heroes, p.410
  19. ^ John Pilger "The revolution will not be televised", New Statesman, 11 September 2006
  20. ^ Pilger, John. "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire.". Speech. Democracy Now. 
  21. ^ "The lie is breathtaking indeed, Mr. Pilger, but who told it?", The Australian, 27 February 2009, accessed 7/24/11
  22. ^ Fieta Page John Pilger hopes to open eyes to plight of Aboriginals with Utopia, The Canberra Times, 27 February 2014
  23. ^ The Mirror John Pilger goes back to his homeland to investigate Australia's dirtiest secret
  24. ^ John Pilger "Australia is the only developed country whose government has been condemned as racist by the United Nations", New Statesman, 16 October 2000
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Pilger turns up heat on East Timor", The Australian, 3 June 1994
  27. ^ a b John Pilger Heroes, London: Vintage, 2001 edition, pp.572-73
  28. ^ Lefties: 3: A Lot of Balls, BBC Four, 11 October 2007
  29. ^ a b c Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Pan, 2003 [2004], pp.494-95
  30. ^ "Gone and (largely) forgotten", British Journalism Review, 17:2, 2006, pp.50-52
  31. ^ Maurice Smith "A Newspaper In Pursuit Of Lost Ideals", Glasgow Herald, 13 February 1987, p.13
  32. ^ John Pilger and Steve Platt "Beyond the dross", Red Pepper, July 2010
  33. ^ Hayward (2008), p.10
  34. ^ a b John Pilger "Why my film is under fire", The Guardian, 23 September 2002
  35. ^ Stephen Bates "TV chief attacks 'one-sided' Palestinian documentary", 20 September 2002
  36. ^ Leon Symons "Carlton chief slams Pilger's attack on Israel", The Jewish Chronicle, as reprinted by mediaguardiian, 20 September 2002
  37. ^ Jason Deans "TV boss 'irresponsible' says Pilger", mediaguardian, 20 September 2002
  38. ^ a b "Programme Complaints and Findings Bulletin No. 6", ITC, 13 January 2003, pp. 4-5 (now on OFCOM website)
  39. ^ Louise Jury "Pilger cleared of bias in TV documentary on Palestinians", The Independent, 13 January 2003, accessed on 3 July 2011
  40. ^ The One World Media Awards 2008
  41. ^ John Pilger, The War on Democracy
  42. ^ "Television's role in the coup against Chávez", The Guardian
  43. ^ Simon Romero, "Chávez Looks at His Critics in the Media and Sees the Enemy", The New York Times, 1 June 2007.
  44. ^ John Pilger. "Bush Terror Elite Wanted 9/11 to Happen". Two years ago a project set up by the men who now surround George W Bush said what America needed was "a new Pearl Harbor". Its published aims have, alarmingly, come true. 
  45. ^ John Pilger "Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal",, 15 November 2004
  46. ^ Pip Hinman & John Pilger "Pilger interview: Truth and lies in the 'war on terror'", Green Left (Australia), 28 January 2004
  47. ^ Sunday Herald Sun, 14 March 2004
  48. ^ Kamm, Oliver (20 September 2006). "Big voice, too many false notes". The Times (London). Retrieved 13 October 2015.  (subscription required)
  49. ^ John Pilger, "Blair's bombs", John Pilger website, 25 July 2005
  50. ^ John Pilger, "The real threat we face in Britain is Blair", 17 August 2006
  51. ^ John Pilger, "The danse macabre of US-style democracy", 23 January 2008
  52. ^ John Pilger "Obama's 100 days – the mad men did well",, 30 April 2009
  53. ^ Hundal, Sunny (30 November 2008). "The racist flipside of anti-imperialism". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  54. ^ "Pilger loath to hear roar of dissent", The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2009
  55. ^ a b "Julian Assange's backers lose £200,000 bail money", The Telegraph (UK), 4 September 2012
  56. ^ PA Mediapoint "Wikileaks founder Assange free after being granted bail", Press Gazette, 16 December 200
  57. ^ "Julian Assange in conversation with John Pilger",
  58. ^ Nick Davies "10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange", The Guardian, 17 December 2010
  59. ^ "Unjust legal saga continues for Assange", The Drum Opinion, ABC News (Australia), reprint of interview with Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), 31 May 2012
  60. ^ Owen Jones "There should be no immunity for Julian Assange from these allegations", The Independent, 17 August 2012
  61. ^ John Pilger "The pursuit of Julian Assange is an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism", New Statesman, 22 August 2012
  62. ^ "Pilger: Assange shames journalists", The Australian (blog), 8 October 2012
  63. ^ John Pilger "WikiLeaks is a rare truth-teller. Smearing Julian Assange is shameful", New Statesman, 14 February 2013
  64. ^ a b Geoffrey Macnab "Film review: Utopia - John Pilger's documentary reveals 'shocking poverty' of Australia's indigenous communities", The Independent, 14 November 2013
  65. ^ Steve Rose "Utopia And John Pilger Q&A, Framed: film festival previews", The Giuardiabn, 16 November 2013
  66. ^ Donald Clarke "John Pilger on breaking the Great Silence of Australia’s past", Irish Times, 15 November 2013
  67. ^ Hazel Healy "John Pilger: Australia’s silent apartheid", New Internationalist, November 2013
  68. ^ Alex Ivett "Interview: John Pilger exposes Australia’s shocking secret in Utopia", Australian Times, 15 November 2013
  69. ^ Charlotte O'Sullivan "Utopia - film review", London Evening Standard, 15 November 2013
  70. ^ Peter Bradshaw "Utopia – review", The Guardian, 14 November 2013
  71. ^ Nigel Andrews "Review – Utopia", Financial Times, 14 November 2013
  72. ^ Mark Kermode "Utopia – review", The Observer, 17 November 2013
  73. ^ John Pilger "Having a fun time in New Orleans: the latest recruits (sorry, "alumni") of latter-day Reaganism", New Statesman, 13 November 1998
  74. ^ David Barsamian "Interview with John Pliger", The Progressive, November 2002
  75. ^ John Pilger "As the world protests against war, we hear again the lies of old", New Statesman, 17 April 2003. Also published as John Pilger "As the world protests against war, we hear again the lies of old",, 17 April 2003
  76. ^ John Pilger "John Pilger finds journalism rotting away", New Statesman, 28 April 2003 (The date given on the NS website is for the date of publication online.)
  77. ^ David Aaronovitch "Lies and the Left", The Observer, 27 April 2003
  78. ^ John Pilger "War by Media", Information Clearing House, 14 April 2006
  79. ^ "John Pilger explains "why journalism matters" | The Linc". Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  80. ^ "2009 John Pilger". Sydney Peace Foundation. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  81. ^ [1] Press Gazette
  82. ^ The Grierson Trust :: Winners, Retrieved 20 November 2011
  83. ^
  84. ^ Breaking the Silence: The Films of John Pilger, Anthony Hayward (Profiles International Media, 2013)
  85. ^ Noam Chomsky, introduction to Pilger's The New Rulers of the World, April 2002
  86. ^ Martha Gellhorn, Preface to 'Distant Voices' by John Pilger, 12 July 1991
  87. ^ Simpson at London's Frontline Club, 19 October 2007.
  88. ^ Nevin, Charles "Captain Moonlight – in a word", The Independent, 28 November 1993
  89. ^ Hollander, Vicki. "Film Review: Palestine is still the issue." CAMERA. Accessed on 25 February 2011 at:
  90. ^ See, e.g., Kerr, Christopher. "Political bite-sized meaty chunks". Crikey. 2 October 2007. Accessed on 25 February 2011 at:
  91. ^ Noam Chomsky: Chomsky Answers Guardian, 13 November 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  92. ^ "Pilger's praises reignite Shawcross feud", Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2001
  93. ^ Clayfield, Matthew. "Interview: Christopher Hitchens." The Punch. Accessed on 22 February 2011 at:
  94. ^ Lexington's Notebook: "Libya and the higher bilge", The Economist, 27 February 2011. Accessed on 15 March 2011. The author was commenting on the Pilger article "Behind the Arab revolt lurks a word we dare not speak", New Statesman, 24 February 2011
  95. ^ John Pilger "In Ukraine, the US is dragging us towards war with Russia", The Guardian, 13 May 2014
  96. ^ Jonathan Chait "Guardian Columnist: Putin Is a Great Democrat, Like Hugo Chávez or Castro", New York, 14 May 2014
  97. ^ Luke Johnson "'Guardian' Op-Ed Quotes Cryptic Odesa 'Doctor' Seen As Hoax", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 May 2014
  98. ^ See also Michael Mossbacher "Putin has his Useful Idiots on the Left and the Right", Standpoint, July/August 2014

External links[edit]