John Pilger, Australian Documentarian and Investigative Journalist, Dies at 84

Noam Chomsky called the “War on Democracy” director ‘s work “a beacon of light in often dark times”

John Pilger
John Pilger (Getty Images)

Australian documentarian and investigative journalist John Pilger died on Saturday at age 84, his family announced on social media.

“It is with great sadness the family of John Pilger announce he died yesterday 30 December 2023 in London aged 84,” read the announcement on Pilger’s X (formerly Twitter) account. “His journalism and documentaries were celebrated around the world, but to his family he was simply the most amazing and loved Dad, Grandad and partner. Rest In Peace.”

“My Dad died yesterday,” his son Sam, a Lond0n-based journalist, wrote on X. “I am heartbroken, but also so very proud and grateful to have had such an amazing Dad. He was my hero.”

While still in his 20s, Pilger was the youngest recipient of Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award in 1967. In 1979, he became the first to win twice. He also publicly championed WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange.

He was given BAFTA’s Richard Dimbleby Award for factual reporting in 1991. He was also nominated for BAFTAs in 2003 and 2004 for his TV documentaries “Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror” and “Palestine is Still the Issue.”

In 2005, public intellectual Noam Chomsky described Pilger’s work as “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.”

The Australian director fearlessly tackled topics included the treatment of Aboriginal Australians and the foreign policies of America, Australia and Great Britain. He came to notice in the early ’80s with films about the Cambodian genocide. Pilger also appeared in David Munro’s 1979 film “Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” which New York Times critic Janet Maslin described as “blunt,” “straightforward” and “heartbreaking.”

Pilger won an International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences award for his 1990s follow-up ITV documentary “Cambodia: The Betrayal.”

“John Pilger unearths, with steely attention to facts, the filthy truth and tells it as it is. I salute him,” said playwright Harold Pinter of Pilger in 2005.

He was born and grew up in Bondi, Sydney, Australia. He began his media career with Reuters and the Daily Mirror, where he became chief foreign correspondent, covering multiple wars — including Vietnam.

His many films include “Vietnam: Still America’s War,” “Do You Remember Vietnam?” and “The War On Democracy.” He also wrote the nonfiction books “Distant Voices,” “Hidden Agendas” and “The New Rulers of the World.”

Pilger is survived by his son Sam and daughter Zoe.

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