We extend our condolences to the family and friends of John Pilger, who passed away recently on the 30 December.
The great Australian journalist, writer and documentary-maker maintained his place as an heroic voice for independent and ethical reporting at every turn, supporting the cause of Julian Assange and long arguing for a fairer, more balanced understanding of Palestine and China as well as Australia’s First Nations people.
Pilger’s books include A Secret Country: The Hidden Australia (1989) and Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2007), as well as landmark documentaries such as Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy (1994), Palestine is Still the Issue (2002) and Utopia (2013).
His most recently filmed work was The Dirty War on the NHS (2019), an investigation into the undermining of the British health system.
Twice awarded Britain’s journalist of the year and winner of the 2009 Sydney Peace Prize, John Pilger was never afraid to speak truth to power.
His friend Martha Gellhorn once described him as someone who “belongs to an old and unending worldwide company, the men and women of conscience”.
Noam Chomsky similarly remarked that “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.”
Pilger’s presence this last May at the Addi Road Writers’ Festival 2023 to hear a conversation between ex 4-Corners journalist Peter Cronau and author Antony Loewenstein for the latter’s book ‘The Palestine Laboratory’ was widely noted.
Poets, musicians, journalists and authors at our festival were all grateful for Pilger’s interest and support at such a grassroots cultural event. His efforts in staying close to what was happening at street level in the community – inspiring young and fellow writers, journalists and artists of conscience – was as appreciated behind the scenes as the very public impact of his work internationally.
John Pilger’s criticisms and laments for where journalism was heading remain more apposite and stinging than ever with his loss. In a 2002 interview with The Progressive, he said this:
“Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what George Orwell called the ‘official truth’. They simply cipher and transmit lies. It really grieves me that so many of my fellow journalists can be so manipulated that they become really what the French describe as ‘functionaires’, functionaries, not journalists. Many journalists become very defensive when you suggest to them that they are anything but impartial and objective. The problem with those words ‘impartiality’ and ‘objectivity’ is that they have lost their dictionary meaning. They’ve been taken over… [they] now mean the establishment point of view… Journalists don’t sit down and think, ‘I’m now going to speak for the establishment.’ Of course not. But they internalise a whole set of assumptions, and one of the most potent assumptions is that the world should be seen in terms of its usefulness to the West, not humanity.”
Born 9 October 1939 in Bondi.
Died 30 December 2023 in London.
PHOTO: John Pilger and Natasha Jones at Addi Road Writers’ Festival 2023 in Marrickville, Sydney.