Speech by the head of the Jury and the Board Elin Enge

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony June 12, 2003

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Jury of the Sophie Foundation, I have the great pleasure of formally announcing that:

The Sophie Prize 2003 has been awarded to the internationally renowned Australian journalist and filmmaker, John Pilger.

The world is presently facing enormous challenges. Peace, stability and even the very institutions that have been established to mitigate war and conflict over the last 50 years are threatened. Violation of human rights and exploitation of people and nature continues despite numerous international conventions and commitments. Democratic rights are actively suppressed and are withering even in assumed democracies.

When power is misused, critical questions pertaining to the control over media and information must be asked. Today democracy is at stake because media does not fulfil its mandate as independent informants. The public is at loss and misguided if the truth is warped by corrupt leaders and manipulated media. And the increasing commercialisation of media further threatens to undermine critical and trustworthy journalism.

Media has a crucial role to play in uncovering the true stories and motives of those in power. But this requires journalists with integrity and courage.

The winner of the Sophie prize 2003, John Pilger is one of the world’s most outstanding and courageous journalists. He has over the last 30 years contributed to uncovering the  lies and propaganda of the powerful, especially as they relate to wars, conflict of interests and economic exploitation of people and natural resources.

John Pilger, says: “It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers, without understanding the hidden agendas and myths that surround the message”. He has managed to show the injustice and suppression of truth and to reveal the propaganda. He engages and provokes the public and forces them to reflect and take a stand, - an essential condition for a functioning democracy. He believes that the public is committed to use their power and speak up for the protection of democratic rights.

Throughout all of his work, his main mission has been that of protecting human rights for all. He reveals the double standards of the powerful as they fight to protect the human rights of their own people, but actively undermine these rights elsewhere. 

John Pilger has covered some of the most burning issues of the last part of the 20th Century and up to today:

  • He was one of the first journalists to alert the world to the agony suffered by the Cambodian people under the Pol Pot regime.
  • He covered the Vietnam war over many years.
    His documentation of the inhuman treatment of the aboriginals in his home country Australia caused international attention prior to the Olympic games in Sidney.
  • In his documentary on Indonesia, he has revealed how the world’s powerful business interests gained direct control over the natural resources of this country.
  • His recent report on Palestine, “Palestine is still the issues”,  has shocked and provoked debate and sheds light on the desperate situation of the Palestinian people.
  • During the US and British invasion of Iraq  he assisted  the public in critically assessing the true motives for the war. Thus the public was capable of asking crucial questions as to the legitimacy of this war.
  • In his most recent book “The New Rulers of the World” he shows the nature of modern imperialism after September 11. He stresses that war is terrorism and that war does not contribute to fighting terrorism.

The direct link between exploitation of people and nature is seen throughout all of his documentaries, articles and books.

The Jury of the Sophie Foundation has decided to grant the Sophie Prize 2003 to John Pilger on account of the following. He has:

  • revealed and provoked debate on the hidden agendas of power.
  • fought tirelessly for human rights and democracy
  • shown how exploitation of people and nature are interlinked
  • engaged a large number of people in critical reflection on the motives of power and thus encouraged political action
  • been one the most critical voices in addressing the commercialisation and manipulation of media.

In short; - He has through his integrity, thoroughness and courage, strengthened democracy and human dignity.

The Jury of the Sophie Prize hopes that the award will encourage the Prize winner and fellow journalists to continue to shed light on the hidden agendas, thus protecting our democratic rights and contributing to the equitable and fair distribution of the worlds resources.