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Phillip George Knightley AM (23 January 1929 – 7 December 2016) was an Australian journalist, critic, and non-fiction author. He became a visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, England, and was a media commentator on the intelligence services and propaganda.

Phillip Knightley
Phillip George Knightley

23 January 1929
Died7 December 2016(2016-12-07) (aged 87)
ResidenceLondon, Sydney and Goa, India
Occupationjournalist, critic, and non-fiction author
Children3 children: daughters, Aliya and Marisa & son Kim


Born in Sydney, he began his career in 1946 as a copyboy with the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Two years as a cadet reporter with The Northern Star (Lismore) followed. He then temporarily left journalism to become a copra trader in Fiji before joining the Oceania Daily News (Suva), which prided itself as being the "First Paper Published in the World Today" because of Suva's proximity to the International Dateline.

Knightley returned to Australia and worked for The Herald in Melbourne. He returned to Sydney in 1952 joining the city's Daily Mirror and covered Elizabeth II's visit to Australia in 1953/54. He left for London in November 1954 as foreign correspondent for the Daily Mirror, and then went to India as managing editor of the Bombay (Mumbai) literary magazine, Imprint.

Migrating to the UK in 1965, he became a special correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, remaining there until 1985. During this time he was a member of the 'Insight' investigative team.

After leaving The Sunday Times, he contributed literary criticism to the Mail on Sunday (London), The Independent (London), The Australian 's Review of Books, The Age (Melbourne), and the New York Review of Books.

He lectured on journalism, law, and war at the Australian National Press Club in Canberra, the Australian Senate, City University, London, University of Manchester, Pennsylvania State University, University of California Los Angeles, Stanford University, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Inner Temple, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and to the University of Düsseldorf.

Knightley's main professional interests were war reporting, propaganda, and espionage. In more than 30 years of writing about espionage, he met most of the spy chiefs of all the major intelligence services in the world, and interviewed numerous officers and agents from all sides during the Cold War and since. In December 2010, he received media coverage for acting as a bail sureties provider for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.[1] Having backed Assange by pledging bail in December 2010, Knightley lost the money in June 2012 when a judge ordered it to be forfeited, as Assange had sought to escape the jurisdiction of the English courts by entering the embassy of Ecuador.[2]

In 1997, Knightley was a judge for Canada's Lionel Gelber Prize, which honours the world's best book on international relations. He was the European representative on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and patron of the C. W. Bean Foundation in Canberra. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2005, for "services to journalism and as an author".

Knightley was married with two daughters, Aliya and Marisa, a son, Kim, and two granddaughters. He lived between London, Sydney and Goa in India. He died on 7 December 2016 at the age of 87.[3]

Awards and honoursEdit

  • 1980, 1988 – British Press Awards Journalist of the Year – one of only two journalists to have won the honour twice
  • 1982 – British Colour Magazine Writer of the Year
  • 1983 – British Chef and Brewer Crime Writer's award – for his investigation into a murder case in Italy
  • 1980 – Granada Television Reporter of the Year
  • 1975 – Overseas Press Club of America Award for The First Casualty as the best book on foreign affairs.
  • 2006 – City University, London, Artes Doctor Honoris Causa (Honorary Doctor of Arts) for Services to Journalism and Authorship.
  • 2007 – University of Sydney, Australia, Doctor Honoris Causa (Honorary Doctor of Letters) for Services to Journalism and Authorship.


  • The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, 1975, on war and propaganda (in the United States, a Book of the Month Club main choice), 465 pages. ISBN 0151312648
    • The First Casualty: The War Correspondent As Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. 592 pages. ISBN 080186951X
    • The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq. 3rd edition: 2004, 608 pages. ISBN 0801880300
  • The Second Oldest Profession, 1986, on espionage (in the United States, a History Club alternative choice) ISBN 0393023869
  • Philby, KGB Master Spy, his biography of Kim Philby ISBN 0394578902
  • An Affair of State, about the 1963 John Profumo scandal in Britain, publication of which was banned in the United Kingdom
  • The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia (with Colin Simpson) OCLC 57525
  • The Pearl of Days, London, Hamilton, 1972, ISBN 0241022665, the history of the Sunday Times
  • Suffer the Children, about the Thalidomide tragedy
  • The Death of Venice, ISBN 0275229203, on attempts to save Venice from permanent flooding
  • The Rise and Fall of the House of Vestey, on the business empire established by Sir William (later Baron) Vestey in 1897;
  • A Hack's Progress, London : J. Cape, 1997, ISBN 0224043994, his autobiography
  • Australia: A Biography of a Nation, London : Jonathan Cape, 2000. ISBN 0224050060
  • Knightley, Phillip, Sarah Jackson, and Annabel Merullo; John Keegan (Introduction). The Eye of War: Words and Photographs from the Front Line. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2003. ISBN 1588341658


External linksEdit