John Pilger (1939-2023): Outstanding, Truth-telling Journalist & Documentary Maker Dies

John Pilger
John Pilger working on ITV’s The Timor Conspiracy, originally screened in 1994, on the human tragedy caused by the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Photograph: Carlton Television

The UK-based, expatriate Australian journalist, writer and film maker John Pilger died on 30 December 2023 aged 84. He had a life-time of well-researched truth-telling  for the sorely oppressed people of the world without a voice including the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Diego Garcia, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine  as well as  the Indigenous People of Australia. He inspired  several generations of people to write for the voiceless victims of US imperialism.

John Richard Pilger (9 October 1939 – 30 December 2023) was born in Bondi, Sydney, Australia. He started life as a journalist  in a four-year journalist trainee scheme with the Australian Consolidated Press and worked for various Australian tabloids before going overseas.  From 1962 he was mostly based in London, UK, as a journalist, writer, author, war correspondent, scholar and documentary filmmaker exposing the evils of Western imperialism and US imperialism in particular [1, 2]. He is survived by his son Sam and daughter Zoe.

As a gifted writer, journalist and documentary film maker he knew the power of words and images. He operated within Mainstream  Western journalism albeit on the so-called “Left” but fundamentally on the side of humanity and truth-telling. Because of his honest reportage about the policies of the US, US lackey Australia and the UK he was evidently unacceptable to oligopoly Mainstream media in US lackey and look-the-other-way Australia in which about 70% of newspaper readership  has been acquired by the generally mendacious, pro-war and pro-US imperialism Murdoch empire. Indeed I believe that the term “Murdochracy” was coined by John Pilger to describe Australian democracy that is woefully perverted by the racist and mendacious US-owned Murdoch media empire.

Australia was involved in all post-1950 US Asian wars, atrocities involving the deaths of 40 million Asians from violence and war-imposed deprivation [3]. Indeed from WW2 onwards Australia variously as a UK and/or US lackey has violated all of the approximately 80 Indo-Pacific countries [4, 5]. Decent and humane Australians were familiar with John Pilger through his books and powerful documentaries and especially those about horrendous US wars. He notably exposed the appalling maltreatment  of Indigenous Australians in the documentaries  “The Secret Country” (1985), “Welcome to Australia” (1999) and “Utopia” (2013). John Pilger’s book “A Secret Country” exposed the harsh realities of a racist, look-the-other-way, and US lackey Australia.

Some of the greatest if unintended compliments paid to John Pilger for his indefatigable writing for the oppressed and violated came from the Dark Side. Thus in circa 2005 the ABC (the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s equivalent of the racist and mendacious UK BBC) reported in prime time that it had obtained expert legal advice that by comparing  the Iraqi resistance to the WW2 French Resistance he was probably violating US lackey Australia’s all-encompassing and draconian “anti-terrorism” laws. John Pilger’s opposition to US imperialism and his exposure of the US and UK role in the CIA-backed 1975 Coup that removed the reformist Whitlam Labor Government from power in Australia [6] occasioned hatred from Australian Labor PM Bob Hawke (a neoliberal US lackey and also quite evidently a “US asset”). 

Working from London John Pilger turned his forensic attention to atrocities around the world from the US and the Americas to  Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, China and Australia.  John Pilger made over 50  documentary films, commencing with “The Quiet Mutiny” (1970) about Vietnam. “Year Zero” (1979) exposed the Cambodian Genocide and “Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy” (1993) exposed the East Timor Genocide.  His documentary “The Coming War On China” (2016) is acutely pertinent today in describing how a remorselessly greedy, racist  and aggressive America has surrounded China with US bases.  John Pilger’s  writing and documentaries have won him awards around the world and he was given the UK Journalist of the Year Award in 1967 and 1979.

John Pilger worked for a variety of Mainstream news media  including  the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), and Sunday Telegraph  (Sydney), and thence in the UK and working for  British United Press, Reuters,  Daily Mirror (sacked after the takeover by the notorious Robert Maxwell ), News on Sunday (that he founded), and the respectable New Statesman and the similarly decent Guardian. John Pilger was a war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Biafra.

John Pilger published 11 books, namely “The Last Day” (1975),  “Aftermath: The Struggles of Cambodia and Vietnam” (1981),  “The Outsiders” (with Michael Coren, 1984), “Heroes” (1986, 2001), “A Secret Country” (1989), “Distant Voices” (1992 and 1994), “Hidden Agendas” (1998),  “Reporting the World: John Pilger’s Great Eyewitness Photographers” (2001), “The New Rulers of the World” (2002, 2016), “Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs” (editor; 2004), and  “Freedom Next Time” (2006).

The core ethos of Humanity is Kindness and Truth, and the key messages from the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (and indeed from all holocausts and genocides) are “zero tolerance for lying”, “zero tolerance for racism”, “bear witness” and “never again to anyone”. John Pilger in an exemplary life of over 60 years of truth telling for the oppressed of the world observed these fundamental moral imperatives.

Inspired by John Pilger and similar truth-telling journalists I have been addressing the horrendous US and Western violation of the Developing World for 3 decades. However I have done so as a scientist concerned with trying to estimate (from publicly available UN data from 1950 onwards) avoidable deaths from imposed deprivation in countries subject to US Alliance invasion, US hegemony, and Western neo-colonialism, and indeed for all countries in the world. In  the Developing World (minus China) under-5 infant deaths (recorded by the UN since 1950) represent about 70% of avoidable deaths from deprivation. In 2020 an estimated 7.4 million people died avoidably from imposed deprivation on Spaceship Earth with the US  in charge of the flight deck [3]. Unfortunately  the Western Mainstream  media resolutely ignore these horrendous realities in which it is complicit. I was gratified when John Pilger noted estimates of under-5 infant deaths in Occupied Iraq and Occupied Afghanistan. 

 John Pilger covered Western-imposed atrocities over the last 6 decades and addressed the carnage thus: “Since World War II, the US has: Tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically-elected. Tried to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries. Tried to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders… The sheer scale of suffering, let alone criminality, is little known in the West, despite the presence of the world’s most advanced communications, nominally freest journalism and most admired academy. That the most numerous victims of terrorism — western terrorism — are Muslims is unsayable, if it is known. That half a million Iraqi infants died in the 1990s as a result of the embargo imposed by Britain and the US is of no interest. That extreme jihadism, which led to 9/11, was nurtured as a weapon of Western policy (“Operation Cyclone”) is known to specialists but otherwise suppressed. While popular culture in Britain and the US immerses World War II in an ethical bath for the victors, the holocausts arising from Anglo-American dominance of resource-rich regions are consigned to oblivion. Under the Indonesian tyrant Suharto, anointed “our man” by Thatcher, more than a million people were slaughtered. Described by the CIA as “the worst mass murder of the second half of the 20th century”, the estimate does not include a third of the population of East Timor who were starved or murdered with Western connivance, British fighter-bombers and machine guns” [7].

John Pilger in his 6 decade career provided eloquent and shocking written and video exposure of Anglo-American crimes as an alternative to the overwhelming deluge of lying by commission and lying by omission by Mainstream media journalist, editor, politician, academic and commentariat presstitutes. By way of summary, the US has invaded 72 countries (52 since WW2), has committed 469 invasions from 1798 onwards, committed 251 invasions since 1991, and has 800 military bases in over 70 countries. The US actively spies on and subverts all countries, deceives and spies on  its craven ally Australia, and indeed supplies raw intelligence on Australians to Apartheid Israel. The Whitlam Labor Government (1972-1975) was removed in a UK- and US-backed coup. Wikileaks revealed that several Labor MPs gave insider information about the Labor Government to the US Embassy. Popularly-elected Labor PM Kevin Rudd was removed in a US approved, mining corporation-backed and pro-Zionist-led coup in 2010. While  the US has invaded 72 countries, by way of comparison the British have invaded 193 countries, Australia 85, France 82, Germany 39, Japan 30, Russia 25, Canada 25, Apartheid Israel 13 and China 2 [8].

I have compiled a list of about 70 genocidal atrocities together with my estimates of deaths from violence and imposed deprivation [3, 9-12]. The following is an alphabetical list of  US- and/or UK-complicit  genocides and atrocities eloquently reported on by the wonderful John Pilger over the last 60 years  (my estimates of deaths from violence and imposed deprivation are given in brackets): 1978-1997 Afghan Genocide and Afghan Holocaust (6 million), 2001 onwards Afghan Genocide and Afghan Holocaust (7 million), post-1950 Asian Holocaust due to Australia-complicit US Asian Wars (40 million), 1788 onwards Australian Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide (2 million), 1971-1972 Bengali Holocaust and gendercide (3.0 million), 1967-1970, Biafran Genocide (2 million), 1990s Bosnian Genocide (circa 0.1 million), 20th century Brazilian Indigenous Genocide (1 million), 1969-1998 Cambodian Genocide (6.0 million), 1958-1961 Chinese Holocaust of the Great Leap Forward (20-30 million), 1960 onwards Congolese Genocide and Congolese Holocaust (20 million), 1984-1985 Ethiopian famine (1 million), 1960-1996, Guatemala Mayan Indian Genocide (1.9 million), 1978 onwards Iranian Holocaust and Iranian Genocide (3 million), 2003-2011 21st century Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (2.7 million), 1990-2011 Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (4.6 million), 1914-2011 Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (9 million), 1978 onwards Iranian Holocaust and Iranian Genocide (3 million), 1955-1975 Laotian Genocide (1.2 million), 2011 Libyan Genocide (0.2 million), 2000 onwards 21st century Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust (32 million), 1916 onwards Palestinian Genocide and Palestinian Holocaust (2.2 million), 1994 Rwandan Genocide (0.9 million), 1992 onwards Somali Genocide and Somali Holocaust (2.2 million), 1955-2018 Sudan Genocide and Sudan Holocaust (13 million), 2011 onwards Syrian Genocide (1.0 million), 1990-2018 Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka (0.2 million), 1975-1999 East Timorese Genocide (0.3 million), 1945-1975 Vietnamese Genocide and Vietnamese Holocaust (15.3 million), and 2015 onwards Yemeni Genocide (0.1 million).

Of course the actuality and magnitude of these US-complicit atrocities is overwhelmingly ignored by  US and US-beholden Western  Mainstream media.

One of the most prolonged and indeed  ongoing atrocities written about by John Pilger has been the century-long Palestinian Genocide. He wrote about the awful circumstances of the Occupied Palestinians in  “Distant Voices” (1991) [13] and referred to a Palestinian Genocide in an essay entitled “Looking from the side, from Belsen to Gaza: in “The Plight of the Palestinians” (edited by William Cook, 2010) [14, 15]. One supposes that John Pilger’s support for Palestinian  human rights would have contributed to his sacking  in 1985 from the Daily Mirror shortly after it was acquired by Jewish Zionist crook Robert Maxwell [1]. For a detailed and documented account of the ongoing Palestinian Genocide see [16], and for a powerful summary by Pulitzer Prize-winning US journalist Chris Hedges see [16]. The Israeli “excuse” for the appalling and genocidal ongoing atrocity by neo-Nazi Apartheid Israel in the Gaza Concentration Camp (34,000 Occupied Palestinians killed so far, 11,500 of them children) was what Zionist-perverted Western media falsely asserted  was a “Hamas massacre” of 1,200 Israelis on 7 October 2023.  However a few eminent, Pilger-like and  award-winning Western journalists (Chris Hedges, Jonathan Cook and Max Blumenthal), the anti-racist  Jewish medium Mondoweiss, eminent political scientist Professor John Mearsheimer and others have reported that many of these Israelis were killed in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) response to the Occupied Palestinian Gaza Breakout and involving high explosive tank shelling and missiles from helicopter gunships against lightly-armed Palestinians to provide a 9/11-style excuse for genocide [17]. In among his last statements before his death, John Pilger commented thus on the ongoing Gaza Massacre and Gaza Genocide: “The Palestinians are again fighting for their lives, refusing to live in the prison known as Gaza, controlled and policed by Israel with Palestinians killed and maimed, unreported, day after day. Now their resistance, to which they have a right, is called ‘unprovoked””( 8 October) and “When I was last in Gaza, the Israeli air force terrorised the population by flying fast and loud and low at night. All children bed-wetted and had violent nightmares, said a psychologist, and were ‘damaged forever’. Such is Israel’s exercise of its ‘right to self defence'”  (5 November).

John Pilger staunchly defended fellow outstanding Australian journalist Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks  and now imprisoned  in London for 11 years (7 in the Ecuadorean Embassy and 4 in Belmarsh Prison) for telling the truth, for revealing ugly secrets of the American state and of US war crimes but utterly betrayed by successive US lackey Australian Labor and Coalition Governments [19].

I was inspired for decades by the outstanding example of my fellow Australian and leading humanitarian journalist, John Pilger, and treasured his message to me to keep up the good work. We both contributed to a multi-author book published in London entitled  “The Plight Of The Palestinians. A Long History Of Destruction” [14, 15]. I was also honoured and humbled that in Palestinian scholar Professor  Mazin Qumsiyeh’s Honor List of people speaking out against Israeli occupation, oppression, and apartheid, and for their truthful stand for peace with justice, the name John Pilger is followed by Gideon Polya [20].

Humane and truth-telling people suffering a deluge of lying by omission and Orwellian lying by commission by Western Mainstream media are driven to ask: “Am I mad or is the world mad?” John Pilger’s resolute truth-telling over 6 decades assured us that we were not mad and that we should resolutely bear witness  and speak truth to power. Vale John Pilger.


[1]. “John Pilger”, Wikipedia: .

[2]. “Veteran Australian journalist and documentary-maker John Pilger dies in London, aged 84”, ABC News, 31 December 2023: .

[3]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, Korsgaard Publishing, 2021.

[4]. Gideon Polya, “ AUKUS & Quad In Context: Australia Violates All Indo-Pacific countries”, Countercurrents, 9 December 2021: .

[5]. Gideon Polya, “Australia violates all Indo-Pacific countries”, Stop state terrorism, 9 December 2021: .

[6]. John Pilger, “The British-American coup that ended Australian independence”, The Guardian, 23 October 2014: .

[7]. John Pilger, “John Pilger: The world war on democracy”, Green Left, 27 January 2017: .

[8]. Gideon Polya, “Why Australia Should Quit  Military Links With Serial War Criminal America”, Countercurrents, 28 January 2023: .

[9]. “Report genocide”: .

[10]. Gideon Polya, “US-imposed Post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide”, Korsgaard Publishing, Germany, 2020.

[11]. Gideon Polya, “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability”, 3rd edition, Korsgaard Publishing, Germany, 2023.

[12]. Gideon Polya, “Racist Mainstream Ignores “US-Imposed Post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide”, Countercurrents, 17 July 2020: .

[13]. John Pilger, “Distant Voices”,  Vintage, 1992.

[14]. William Cook (editor), “The Plight of the Palestinians. A long history of destruction”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

[15]. Gideon Polya, “Review: “The Plight Of The Palestinians. A Long History Of Destruction”,  Countercurrents, 17 June 2012: .

[16]. Gideon Polya,  “IDF Killed Israelis On 7 October Enabling 9/11-style Excuse For Gaza Genocide”, Countercurrents, 31 December 2023:  .

[17]. Chris Hedges, “The Genocide in Gaza”, YouTube, 9 December 2023  : .

[18]. “Journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, who was critical of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, dies”, Middle East Eye, 31 December 2023: .

[19]. “Julian Assange”, Wikipedia: .

[20]. Mazin Qumsiyeh, “Honor List”: .

Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia over 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, notably a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (2003). He has also published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (2007, 2021), “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (1998, 2008, 2022), “US-imposed Post-9-11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide” (2020), and “Climate Crisis, Climate Genocide & Solutions” (2020), and contributed to Soren Korsgaard (editor) “The Most Dangerous Book Ever Published – Dangerous Deception Exposed!” (2020). For images of Gideon Polya’s huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see:  .

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