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31 Dec, 2023 16:08

Iconic journalist John Pilger dies

The renowned documentary maker was “one of the greatest journalists in all of history,” Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi has said
Iconic journalist John Pilger dies

Investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger died at age 84 on Saturday at his home in London, his family have announced in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Pilger was known for his hard-hitting exposés on the human cost of empire, from the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq, to Western democracies’ systematic repression of their own working classes. His documentaries include ‘Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia’, ‘Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror’, ‘The War on Democracy’, ‘Palestine is Still the Issue’, and ‘The Coming War with China’. 

Every journalist, even though they may not know it, owes a debt to John Pilger,” Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi told RT on Sunday, calling the award-winning filmmaker “one of the greatest journalists in all of history.

Pilger “realized journalism was about illuminating things for the ordinary person, not for elites, it’s not for awards,” Rattansi explained, praising his late friend and colleague for his “moral compass in which he looked at everything from the bottom up, from the viewpoint of the average person.” 

He was a vocal critic of fake journalism that is so on display when we look at Gaza, when we look at Ukraine, and of course that’s why he found RT as an outlet he could speak to, because he was banned de facto by all British media,” he said.

Pilger was long a fixture at mainstream news outlets, working for the Daily Mirror, Reuters, and ITV’s World in Action. However, he was gradually frozen out by the establishment over the last decade, with The Guardian the last to end regular publication of his column in 2015, in what the journalist himself described as a “purge of those who were saying what The Guardian no longer says anymore.” 

Former colleagues nevertheless flocked to social media to pay their respects. Pilger was “a great Daily Mirror journalist back in the day, one of the very best. Brave, insightful, challenging authority, and instinctively own the side of the underdog,” that outlet’s associate editor, Kevin Maguire, wrote on X. 

ITV managing director Kevin Lygo called Pilger “a giant of campaigning journalism” who “eschewed comfortable consensus and instead offered a radical, alternative approach on current affairs and a platform for dissenting voices over 50 years.” 

Rattansi highlighted Pilger’s tireless campaigning on behalf of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, incarcerated at Britain’s Belmarsh Prison since police dragged him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019, as a prominent piece of his legacy. He credited the journalist for “Assange’s survival and him not being killed in the CIA plot” by the agency’s then-director Mike Pompeo.

Pilger is survived by his partner and his two children Sam and Zoe, who are also writers.

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