John Pilger: Being a journalist is a privilege

Towards the end of our week’s stay in Sydney for OUR Media 6 Conference, the organisers gifted us copies of The Australian Photojournalist, which is the journal of the Australian Photojournalists’ Association.

The June 2006 issue I received is a handsome volume and makes fascinating reading. On the inside front cover, I came across these words by John Pilger, the courageous and outspoken Australian journalist and film-maker hailing from Sydney.

John Pilger

“The best journalism is about looking behind facades and pretensions. It is never accepting the status quo; it is always questioning and remaining sceptical of the pronouncements and actions of those in authority, especially authority that is not accountable.

“The best journalism is following the dictum, wry but true: Never believe anything until it is officially denied. It is seeing the world from ground up, where ordinary people are, not from the top down, where the powerful reside. In many respects, the best journalists are the agents of ordinary people, not of those who preside over them.

“By looking at the world this way, from the standpoint of humanity not its would-be controllers, journalists will find themselves closer to the truth about all manner of things than they will ever be, following the manuals of establishment thinking.

“And by journalists, I mean photographers, too. The finest photographers produce images that ought to achieve mor than a gut reaction but help us make sense of events, great and small.

“Speaking personally, being a journalist is a privilege.”

Indeed. And few people bear that title with greater responsibility and passion than John Pilger.

I had the privilege of listening to John Pilger early on in my career, during one of the first international media conferences I attended in Sweden in the late 1980s. Of the three dozen speakers who spoke there, the only ones who have withstood the gradual erosion of memory are Pilger and Norwegian academic Johan Galtung.

Years later, I read Pilger’s book The New Rulers of the World — which was also the title of 2002 documentary film he wrote, produced and presented on the consequences of globalisation, taking Indonesia as the primary example of the serious problems with the new globalization.

And thank heavens, he shows no signs of slowing down — or mellowing.

The War on Democracy is John Pilger’s first major film for the cinema. Set in Latin America and the US, it explores the historic and current relationship of Washington with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile. Two years in the making, The War on Democracy is due to be released in cinemas in the UK on 15 June 2007.

He has produced more than 55 TV documentaries. Links to two of his more recent ones available online:

Breaking the Silence: Truth and Justice in the War on Terror (2004) on Google Video (51 mins)

Stealing a Nation (2004) on Google Video

Noam Chomsky on John Pilger

Images courtesy