Pilger to headline festival

THE Byron Bay Writers’ Festival has scored a “recruiting coup”, netting John Pilger, the controversial Australian-born, UK-based journalist, author, film-maker and social commentator.

Pilger has confirmed he will be the keynote speaker at this year’s festival.

Festival director Candida Baker yesterday told The Northern Star she was “thrilled” that Pilger had accepted the invitation to headline this year’s event, being held at Byron Bay from August 5-7.

As well as giving the keynote address, Pilger will participate in a panel discussion and conduct a question-and-answer session after the screening of his latest film, The War You Don’t See, at the Dendy Cinema at Byron Bay on the Sunday night of the festival.

Born in Bondi, Pilger left Australia for London in the early 1960s. After spending some time as a freelance journalist, he worked for Reuters news agency, before joining the London Daily Mirror, where he became the chief foreign correspondent.

His work in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, East Timor and the Middle East has distinguished him as one of the great war correspondents of our times.

While his journalism has been described as “fearless and bombastic”, he has also been criticised for being “anti-American”.

Pilger won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009. The jury chose to give him the prize “for his work as an author, film-maker and journalist, as well as for courage as a foreign and war correspondent in enabling the voices of the powerless to be heard”, and “for commitment to peace with justice by holding governments to account for human rights abuses, and for his fearless challenges to censorship in any form.”

More recently, Pilger has been in the public eye for his support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Ms Baker said she hoped Pilger would take part in the Writers’ Festival Great Debate, on the theme of “Who are we, and where are we going?”

The full Byron Bay Writers’ Festival program was launched online at midnight last night. Go to

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