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Pilger, John (1939-)

Writer, Director, Presenter

Main image of Pilger, John (1939-)

Born in Sydney, Australia on 9 October 1939, John Pilger began his career as a cadet journalist on the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Qualifying in 1961, he became a freelance journalist in Italy in 1962. Pilger moved to the UK later in the same year and it was here that he began to establish an international reputation as an investigative journalist and later as a documentary filmmaker and author. He was feature writer and chief foreign correspondent on the Daily Mirror between 1962 and 1986, a columnist for the New Statesman and contributor to many other newspapers, including the New York Times, The Guardian and The Independent. His compelling reporting and analysis, notably of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, brought Pilger international recognition. Salman Rushdie called him "a photographer using words instead of a camera."

In 1970, Pilger made his first foray into television with the World in Action (ITV, 1963-98) report 'The Quiet Mutiny' (tx. 28/9/1970), investigating US soldiers' attitudes to the Vietnam War. Like his writing, his documentaries have brought 'the untold stories' into the public domain, exposing corruption, cruelty and greed. Later works include A Faraway Country (Czechoslovakia) (ITV, 1977) and the harrowing Year Zero: the silent death of Cambodia (ITV, tx. 30/10/1979), which vividly brought to the small screen the brutality and murderous political ambitions of the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime which brought genocide and despair to the people of Cambodia. Further outrages were unearthed in Nicaragua: A Nation's Right to Live (ITV, tx. 15/11/1983), Death of a Nation: the Timor conspiracy (ITV, 22/2/1994) and The New Rulers of the World (ITV, tx. 18/7/2001) amongst others. He has penned one play, 'The Last Day', a dramatised reconstruction of the last days of American involvement in Saigon in 1975, transmitted on BBC2 (30/03/1983).

Pilger's work was formally recognised as early as 1966, when he was awarded the Descriptive Writer of the Year, followed by the Reporter of the Year in 1967. He has twice been voted Journalist of the Year (1967 and 1979), as well as International Reporter of the Year (1970). He received the United Nations Association Media Peace Prize and Gold Medal in 1979-80. In 1991, Pilger won BAFTA's Richard Dimbleby Award for his 'distinguished contribution to factual broadcasting'. In the same year he was presented with a US 'Emmy'. In 2003 he was the first journalist to be awarded the Sophie Prize for exposing deception and improving human rights.

His many books include The Last Day (1975), Aftermath: The Struggle of Cambodia and Vietnam (with Anthony Barnett, 1981), The Outsiders (with Michael Coren, 1984), the excellent Heroes (1986), A Secret Country (1989), Distant Voices (1992), Hidden Agendas (1998) and The New Rulers of the World (2002).

For over 40 years, Pilger has brought his unique blend of tenacity, courage and controlled anger to the investigation of the 'official' version of events from around the world. His exposures, through words and images, of man's inhumanity to man have jolted the consciousness of the public. In a world increasingly dominated by spin, sound-bite and cover-up, he remains a figurehead for 'old school' investigative journalism and political dissent - clear-headed, unshakeable in his moral convictions and impervious to manipulation or deception.

Glen Jones

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