John Pilger, 84, dies; Journalist and filmmaker on human rights violations

John Pilger, 84, dies;  Journalist and filmmaker on human rights violations

John PilgerA foreign correspondent and documentarian who expressed his anger over injustices around the world such as the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and human rights abuses in East Timor, died in London on December 30. He was 84 years old.

His son Sam gave the cause of death in hospital as pulmonary fibrosis.

A tireless critic of Western imperialism and a voice for the voiceless, Mr. Pilger was comfortable with his role as a journalistic provocateur. He once ridiculed impartiality as “a euphemism for the unanimous view of established authority.”

But he has sometimes been criticized for shaping his reporting to conform to his leftist worldview – that the foreign policy of the United States has often helped create suffering around the world.

Mr. Pilger (pronounced Pil-ger), with blond surfer looks, was one of the first journalists to enter Cambodia after Vietnam ousted Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in 1979, ending a nearly four-year reign of terror During which approximately two million people were killed. ,

His reporting from there filled almost an entire issue of The Daily Mirror, the British newspaper for which he had worked since 1963, and was the basis for his most famous documentary, “Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia”, directed by him. David Munro.

Mr. Pilger shocked the audience in that film 52 minute tour What he called “human bleeding” is depicted in scenes showing many half-dead skulls and bones lying in killing fields; Survivors of the massacre are recalling in detail how they were tortured; Each of the former Khmer Rouge soldiers admitted to killing hundreds of fellow Cambodians; And in the absence of medicine, children and adults are dying of malnutrition and anthrax poisoning.

Mr. Pilger left no doubt about whom he blamed for Cambodia’s vulnerability to the brutal Khmer Rouge: President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, architect of the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969 and, a year later, the invasion of the country by the United States and South Vietnam.

“The bombing was his personal decision, illegally and secretly,” Mr. Pilger says, calmly, at the beginning of the film. “They bombed Cambodia, a neutral country in the Stone Age.”

“Year Zero” was one of dozens of documentaries he made while writing for other publications, including The Daily Mirror and The Guardian.

His honors include a Peabody Award in 1989 “Cambodia: The Tenth Year,” A documentary about conditions in the country a decade after the departure of the Khmer Rouge; For an International Emmy in 1991 “Cambodia: The Betrayal” (1990), which exposed deteriorating conditions in the country and forced the Khmer Rouge to track down the arms shipment; and the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009 for holding governments accountable for human rights abuses.

But the praise was short of criticism of his style – that he subordinated journalism to advocacy, leading to some notable mistakes and questionable claims.

Mr. Pilger lost a defamation case over his contention in “The Betrayal” that British agents were training the Khmer Rouge. A story about a young Thai girl who was forced into slavery until she was rescued by Mr. Pilger turned out to be not true.

The British journalist John Snow, in his review in The Observer of Anthony Hayward’s book “In the Name of Justice” (2001) about Mr. Pilger’s documentaries, wrote, “Particularly on television, Pilger’s reporting has increasingly upended the journalism world.” Have divided.” , “There was a loyal minority who cried, ‘Thank God for Pilger,’ and a vocal majority who denounced his lobbying and campaigning style as ‘too much’ and ‘simply not done.'”

John Richard Pilger was born on October 9, 1939 in Bondi, New South Wales, Australia, to Claude and Elsie (Marhen) Pilger. His mother was a teacher, his father a carpenter and trade unionist. When John was 12, he started a student newspaper with a friend.

After a four-year journalism apprenticeship with Australian Consolidated Press, a newspaper company, Mr Pilger became a reporter for The Daily and Sunday Telegraph in Sydney in 1958. He later freelanced in Italy and worked for Reuters in London until he was hired by The. Mirror in 1963. He remained with it till 1986.

He began his parallel career making documentary films in 1970 with “Vietnam: The Quiet Mutiny”, about the declining morale of American troops in Vietnam.

His other documentaries include “Thalidomide: The Ninety-Eight We Forgot” (1974), about unvaccinated victims of the drug that caused birth defects; “The Secret Country: The First Australians Fought Back” (1985), the story of the mistreatment of Aborigines by their homeland; and “Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy” (1994), about Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, in which witnesses described mass killings.

The Timor film was praised by columnist Anthony Lewis in The New York Times for offering “a lot of new material on the role of Britain, Australia and the United States in aiding Indonesia and condemning the invasion.”

But Mr. Pilger sometimes faced problems. In 1982, she wrote in The Mirror that in Bangkok she had purchased Suni, an 8-year-old slave girl, insisting that she was one of many children in Thailand forced into hard labor in sweatshops or as domestic or prostitution. Was forced to do. ,

The illegal deal he got – for £85, printed on the receipt – was that he would keep the girl for a year without paying her any salary. He did not keep her and returned her to her mother.

This story received a lot of attention, but it was not true: another journalist discovered that Suni was a schoolgirl who lived with her family, that she was found by a cab driver whom Mr. Pilger had hired to find a young slave. Had appointed for, and the driver had found him. Bribed the girl and her mother to play together. Mr. Pilger said he was the victim of fraud.

When the conservative British journalist Auberon Waugh questioned the story in The Spectator, Mr. Pilger sued (how this was resolved is unclear). Mr. Waugh later coined the verb “to pilfer”: “to present information in a sensational manner so as to reach a foregone conclusion,” and to use “emotional language to make a false political point.”

In 1991, after Mr. Geidt was accused in “Cambodia: The Betrayal” of helping train the Khmer Rouge to lay landmines, Mr. Pilger was arrested by Christopher Geidt, a former British military intelligence officer, and another former army officer. Had to lose the defamation judgment against him. , Mr Pilger apologized and the broadcaster, Central Independent Television, reached a financial settlement.

In addition to his son Sam, from his first marriage, to Scarth Flett, which ended in divorce, Mr. Pilger has a daughter, Zoe Pilger, from a relationship with Yvonne Roberts; his partner, Jane Hill; And two grandchildren.

In recent years Mr Pilger was a vocal supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces extradition from Britain to the United States under the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing secret government documents.

“Remember that Julian’s pursuit is a measure of his accomplishments,” Mr. Pilger explained. World Socialist Web Site In 2022. “He exposed millions of people to the deceptions of governments that many trusted; He respected their right to know. “It was a remarkable public service.”

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