The wife of Julian Assange has paid tribute to campaigning journalist John Pilger as a “consistent ally of the dispossessed”.
Stella Assange, whom the WikiLeaks founder married while in prison, was among those who called the ITV documentary maker “one of the great” journalists.
Pilger had pushed for the release of Assange, who has been in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy, and criticised his friend’s imprisonment.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) also called the 84-year-old documentarian, who died on Saturday according to his family, “a giant of journalism”.
On X, formerly Twitter, Stella Assange wrote: “Our dear dear John Pilger has left us. He was one of the greats.
“A consistent ally of the dispossessed, John dedicated his life to telling their stories and awoke the world to the greatest injustices.
“He showed great empathy for the weak and was unflinching with the powerful. John was one of Julian’s most vocal champions but they also became the closest of friends.
“He fought for Julian’s freedom until the end. ‘We are all Spartacus if we want to be’, he wrote in his last published piece. This was John, challenging us until the end. Let’s always seek to rise to the challenge. Thank you, dear friend.”
Next year, the High Court will hear Julian Assange’s final appeal against being extradited to the US, where he fears a sentence of 175 years.
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, said: “John Pilger was a giant of journalism who in his reporting career witnessed momentous historical events such as the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Biafra.
“He was also a pioneer of television as a vehicle for investigative journalism, producing groundbreaking work across the BBC and ITV.”
The NUJ member was also a “most redoubtable supporter of progressive campaigns creating work that was the embodiment of journalism that managed to be simultaneously fair and balanced, whilst unequivocally on the side of the underdog”, according to Ms Stanistreet.
Pilger worked to bring to light atrocities in Cambodia, the thalidomide scandal and various conflicts.
Senior BBC journalist John Simpson wrote on X: “Very sad to hear of the death of John Pilger. I was fond of him, and I think it was mutual, even though we disagreed on many things over the years.
“But I admired the force of his writing, even when I often didn’t support what he wrote, and he was always warm when we met.”
Pilger had been outspoken about his views on American and British foreign policy.
Lindsey German, of the Stop the War Coalition, who have organised pro-Palestine protests, called Pilger’s death a “very sad loss to the whole movement”.
She added: “He was a fearless and honest journalist who was a major critic of western imperialism, and whose experience of covering successive wars gave him a real insight into who benefits from the horror of war.
“He was a great friend of the anti-war movement in Britain and lent his powerful voice to a number of campaigns.”
Stop the War has also claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was partially caused by “Nato expansion” in eastern Europe.