- Australian journalist and documentary-maker
- Critic of Israel and the United States
- Praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the Marxist Sandinistas of Nicaragua
- Said that American, British, and Australian troops in Iraq are "legitimate targets" for killers because "they’re illegally occupying a country."
John Pilger is an Australian journalist, the author of one play and nine books (as of 2008), and a producer of numerous television documentaries. In 2004 he was a Visiting Professor at Cornell University.
Pilger was born in October 1939 in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. His Irish-Australian mother and German-Australian father were both radical socialists; his father was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.
John Pilger's interest in journalism as a profession began when he was enrolled at Sydney Boys High School, where he founded the student newspaper, the Messenger. In 1958 he started working as a copy boy with the Sydney Sun and thereafter took a job at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, where he worked as a sportswriter.
In 1962 Pilger relocated and began running the Middle East desk for Reuters in London. From 1963 to 1986 he worked his way up to Chief Foreign Correspondent of London’s Daily Mirror tabloid. Starting in 1969 he also worked as an on-camera reporter for Granada Television (which merged in 2004 with ITV, Great Britain’s largest private television network) and then for Associated Television. He served as a correspondent covering the Vietnam War as well as conflicts in Egypt, India, and Bangladesh, and he began making documentaries for Central and Carlton Television in 1981.
Pilger’s articles appear regularly in leftwing British newspapers such as the The Guardian, The Independent, and The New Statesman, and these pieces are usually mirrored on leftist American websites such as Znet and Pilger's own JohnPilger.com. Pilger also writes opinion pieces for left-of-center U.S. publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Nation magazine.
Pilger claims that Western support for Israel -- coupled with Western disregard for the welfare of Arab and Muslim nations -- is mostly to blame for the persistent unrest in the Middle East. As a logical extension of this view, he blames the West for the rise of Islamic terrorism in recent years. Wrote Pilger of the July 7, 2005 bomb attacks in London’s public transport system:
“The bombs of 7 July were Blair’s bombs. Blair brought home to this country his and George W Bush’s illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today.”
Pilger in 2004 was asked, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, if he approved of “the killing of American, British or Australian troops” by their enemies in Iraq. “Well yes, they’re legitimate targets,” he replied. “They’re illegally occupying a country.”
On January 7, 2005, an article in The Independent quoted Pilger saying that he had “seldom felt as safe in any country” as when he visited Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The article added that Pilger “now openly supports the resistance [in Iraq] on the grounds that ‘we can’t afford to be choosy’” in acquiring allies against the U.S.-led coalition.
Pilger’s documentaries for Carlton Television are broadcast on ITV and they get global distribution. His perspective in both his writings and his documentaries is relentlessly anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Israel and pro-Arab. He makes frequent use of emotional hooks (e.g., focusing on a Palestinian child purportedly injured during an Israeli attack).
In 2002 Pilger wrote and directed the documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror, which was broadcast on ITV. Pilger opens the program by accusing the U.S. of being “a rapacious imperial power,” and asserting that America and the UK are jointly responsible for “the terrorism that dare not speak it’s name, because it’s our terrorism.”
In his documentary The New Rulers of the World, Pilger takes a critical look at globalization; he identifies the Western pursuit of globalization as a chief cause of contemporary Islamic terrorism; and he states that “‘[t]he War on Terrorism’ is terrorism.”
Another representative Pilger documentary is Nicaragua: A Nation’s Right to Survive, which offers a sympathetic portrayal of the Fidel Castro-backed communist Sandinistas while depicting the Nicaraguan peasants who opposed them (in the 1980s) as murderous devils.
Condemning “American imperialism,” Pilger has praised Castro’s Cuba as a nation that provides “a crucial model for challenging power.”
Pilger is also an avid admirer of Venezuela’s Communist President Hugo Chávez, whom he has described as a “threat [to America] because he offers the alternative of a decent society.” In May 2007, Pilger was a signatory to a letter in support of Chávez’s refusal to renew the license of Venezuela’s largest television network, Radio Caracas Televisión -- a refusal designed to suppress the Venezuelan people’s freedom of speech.
Pilger joined Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Robert Fisk and other leftists in writing Iraq Under Seige: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. This 2002 book blames the United States -- not Saddam Hussein‘s unbridled greed or the corrupt United Nations Oil-for-Food program -- for the malnutrition, disease, and increased infant mortality rates in pre-war Iraq.
Pilger also has authored a number of other books detailing his views on war, journalism, and the alleged imperial ambitions of the U.S and Britain. These include: The Last Day (1975); Aftermath: The Struggles of Cambodia and Vietnam (1981); Distant Voices (1994); Hidden Agendas (1999); Reporting the World: John Pilger’s Great Eyewitness Photographers (2001); The New Rulers of the World (2002); Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (2004); and Freedom Next Time (2006).
Pilger has received numerous awards and accolades for his work over the years, including: Journalist of the Year (Britain’s highest journalism award, in 1967); Campaigning Journalist of the Year (1977); the UN Media Peace Prize, Australia (1979-1980); the UN Media Peace Prize and Gold Medal, Australia (1980-81); the United Kingdom Academy Award (1990); the George Foster Peabody Award, USA (1990); the American Television Academy Award (1991); the Monismanien Prize, Sweden (2001); and the Sophie Prize for Human Rights, Norway (2003).
In June 2008, Pilger’s documentary film The War on Democracy, a critique of the effects of U.S. policy on Latin America, was named the Best Documentary at the One World Media Awards in London.
Pilger has won high praise for his political views from playwright Harold Pinter and professor Noam Chomsky.
Pilger is a board of advisors member with the Free Gaza Movement.