Editor's Note: John Pilger made the following remarks in presenting the 15th Martha Gellhorn Prize to the American journalist Robert Parry at a dinner in London on 27 June.
There are too many awards for journalism. Too many simply celebrate the status quo. The idea that journalists ought to challenge the status quo -- what Orwell called Newspeak and Robert Parry calls "groupthink" -- is becoming increasingly rare.
More than a generation ago, a space opened up for a journalism that dissented from the groupthink and flourished briefly and often tenuously in the press and broadcasting. Today, that space has almost closed in the so-called mainstream media. The best journalists have become -- often against their will -- dissidents.
The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism recognizes these honorable exceptions. It is very different from other prizes. Let me quote in full why we give this award:
The Gellhorn Prize is in honor of one of the 20th century's greatest reporters. It is awarded to a journalist whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth -- a truth validated by powerful facts that expose what Martha Gellhorn called "official drivel." She meant "establishment propaganda."
Martha was renowned as a war reporter. Her dispatches from Spain in the 1930s and D-Day in 1944 are classics. But she was more than that. As both a reporter and a committed humanitarian, she was a pioneer: one of the first in Vietnam to report what she called "a new kind of war against civilians": a precursor to the wars of today.
She was the reason I was sent to Vietnam as a reporter. My editor had spread across his desk her articles that had run in the Guardian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A headline read, "Targeting the people." For that series, she was placed on a black-list by the US military and never allowed to return to South Vietnam.
She and I became good friends. Indeed, all my fellow judges of the Martha Gellhorn Prize -- Sandy and Shirlee Matthews, James Fox, Jeremy Harding -- have that in common. We keep her memory.
She was indefatigable. She would call very early in the morning and open up the conversation with one of her favourite expressions -- "I smell a rat."
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