The rebel reporter and Vietnam

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One-hundred black and white photos from 1954-1966 by legendary journalist Wilfred Burchett are on display in Hanoi to commemorate the Australian photographer's 100th birthday (1911-1983).


Ho Chi Minh Museum is presenting the exhibition themed Wilfred Burchett and Vietnam. It was co-organized by the museum, Vietnam News Agency, the Union of Vietnam-Australia Friendship Organisation and Wilfred Burchett's son, George Burchett.


The event presents Burchett's love toward Vietnam and has three distinguished parts including the 17th parallel north depicting Viet Bac war zone (Dien Bien Phu), daily living and working during 1954-1956, and war zones in the southern and northern Vietnam in 1966.


According to organizer, the battle field correspondent who had worked for London-based Daily Express, had chance to meet and talk to Vietnam's leaders including President Ho Chi Minh, general Vo Nguyen Giap, and Pham Van Dong.


Burchett is considered the first journalist to come to Hiroshima in 1945 right after the world's first atomic bomb destroyed the city. As a result, Burchett prefered to show Vietnam and the people in daily  life "without war", such as Ha Long Bay (1955), children playing by Hoan Kiem Lake (1966), farmers on rice fields, and the New Year's market in Hanoi.


At the event's entrance stands a photo of Burchett when he had an interview with President Ho Chi Minh in 1964, though he first met the Vietnamese president in 1954 in Viet Bac.


The extraordinary correspondent wrote eight books, translated into 30 languages, and made documentary films about Vietnam with filmmaker Roger Pic. Anti-Vietnam war activists throughout the world appreciated and supported the films.


In August on Burchett's 100th birthday, George Burchett and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thai presented in Thailand a photo exhibition on Vietnamese women and documentary film about the reporter.


Veteran film-maker David Bradbury spoke about the correspondent and introduced his documentary film Public Enemy Number One.


According to an article with headline "The rebel reporter" by the club last month, Burchett paid a heavy price for reporting unpopular news.


"He has been hailed as one of the most influential journalists of the past 60 years, an author of 35 books, many of them ground-breaking. Yet he was also the subject of cheap, ugly and persistent smears, among them claims he was a "Stalinist hack" in the pay of the KGB," the article said.


"Wilfred Burchett was an extraordinary correspondent - an Australian damned by his own government, and Washington - for daring to report...the other side of the world," according to one biography.


According to George Burchett, who was born in Hanoi in 1955, "Vietnam is always in my heart, not only because I was born here but my father's stories about the country during his journey."


A big fan of his father's work, George voiced anger and dismay that some academics and right-wingers "in their ivory towers" still viewed Wilfred as a sell-out, upset that they had tainted his legacy. "He was always reporting something worth reporting"¦ he was a man of the world.. a wonderful person and they called him a traitor, a KGB agent, a torturer, a brain washer, a Stalinist hack."


His dad was closest to the "immensely charismatic" Ho Chi Minh, he said, but also on good terms with Sihanouk, the princes in Laos in the early 60s, Chou En-lai, and Henry Kissinger, who sought his advice on negotiating an end to the war in Vietnam.


In addition to Vietnam and Japan, Wilfred had travelled from Singapore to Burma, India, China, Korea and several countries during World War II to report "the other side of the world" , quoted the article.


"His life was one big adventure and he loved every bit of it. He was like a journalist's journalist," George said.


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