John Pilger (1939 – 2023)

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John Pilger: A life telling truth to power


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Original, brave, taking great personal risks, and extremely hard working, Pilger was never in the mainstream press pack

David Munro, the brilliantly gifted director and producer of 20 of John Pilger’s 50 films and documentaries once wrote to him, “You opened my eyes and I thank you, since when they’ve never been shut.” No one knew Pilger better than Munro and their friendship continued even after Munro moved on to other personal projects, with John saying, “We never exchanged a harsh word.” 

In the 23 years since his closest collaborator died, countless thousands of people who have watched Pilger’s films or read his books and articles have felt exactly that same sentiment of gratitude. Pilger was a brilliant communicator, a tireless reporter and researcher with an unparalleled record of near half century on the ground exposing the lies and cruelties of the West’s most powerful regimes, led by the United States, and their impact on people of the Global South.

Pilger’s Australian background and his early homes in journalism from Reuters and for 23 years at the Mirror, through ITV’s World In Action to latterly, the little-known Consortium News and CounterPunch, gave him a free-wheeling outsider status in UK journalism.

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John Pilger’s death is a loss for journalism and the world


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  • From his work on the Vietnam war to his prescient commentary about US-China ties, Pilger was an uncompromising chronicler of inconvenient facts that were often missing from Anglo-Saxon media
  • The loss of a journalist of Pilger’s calibre and stature marks a deep loss for journalism at a time when the need for voices of reason has never been so acute

He is gone on the mountain,

He is lost to the forest,

Like a summer-dried fountain,

When our need was the sorest.

Perhaps these classic lines from Walter Scott’s Coronach, a Celtic lament for a dearly departed chieftain, can convey the sense of emotion and loss that I find myself unable to articulate in paying tribute to John Pilger.

As if the overall train wreck of a year that 2023 was in so many ways was not depressing enough, it had to end on an even lower note with the death on December 30 of one of the last, truly great journalists of our time.

This is a belated eulogy, but it’s just as well that I write it weeks after the mainstream media obituaries have been read and forgotten, when everyone in this world of ever-shrinking attention spans has already moved on to whatever the next news cycle brings that is deemed InstaGoogleTweetFace-worthy. Consider this a humble attempt to keep his memory alive just a little while longer, to remind everyone that such a consequential voice of conscience is no longer with us.

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John Pilger, a Friend of Palestine and All Oppressed Nations, Has Passed Away



The first and the last time I met John Pilger in person was in 2018. 

I was invited to deliver a speech at the NSW Parliament in Sydney, Australia. Among the large crowd were many that I knew and respected – a former foreign minister, socially conscientious MPs, morally driven intellectuals and activists, and so on. 

As I stood at the podium, glancing at the crowd, I saw John Pilger. He had a big smile on his face, as if he was in great anticipation to hear me talk. 

The reality was entirely different. I would have rather listened to John than to lecture before him. 

As I expressed my many “thank yous”, I made a point of emphasizing that I have modeled my journalism around that of John Pilger. 

The painful truth is that, growing up in a refugee camp in Gaza, we rarely affiliated Western media, intellect or journalists with truth-telling, in general. Though, with time, I realized that this wholesale assumption was hardly fair, associating bias with everything Western had its own justification, if not logic.

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John Pilger (1939-2023) On Apartheid And Post-Apartheid Injustices: “South Africa Is Where Much Of My Political Education Took Place”


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Johannesburg – John Pilger, who died in his hometown of Sydney aged 84 on December 30, was a unique journalist, equipped with the combination of moral outrage, relentless sleuthing and unparalled interviewing skills required to understand South Africa’s deep structural injustices . Setting aside all the scoops and awards elsewhere, no one else could have periodically parachuted into this country – first in 1967 when he was banned by apartheid, and lastly in 2017 – and then fit that half-century of dramatic turmoil into a hard-hitting film, Apartheid Did Not Die, and a dozen influential articles and book chapters.

Above all, John represented a chronicler of what can be considered the independent-left critique, one who connected the dots from imperialism to local power relations to suffering individuals with passion and eloquence. No one was spared his savage pen. He wrote in 2013,

“In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum, ‘South Africa is in the hands of international capital’… This led directly to state crimes such as the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012, which evoked the infamous Sharpeville massacre more than half a century earlier. Both had been protests about injustice. Nelson Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid.”

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