Jonathan Power is British, born in North Mimms and grew up in Oldham and Liverpool. He is a journalist, filmmaker and writer who is best known for his weekly column on foreign affairs that ran in the International Herald Tribune (now The New York Times) for 17 years. His column is syndicated to papers around the world.
Jonathan was a pupil at the Liverpool Institute High School. He did his bachelor's degree at the University of Manchester and masters in agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before his masters he worked advising peasant farmers in Tanzania, living in an African village. After university, he worked on the staff of Martin Luther King with Jesse Jackson in Chicago during his "End the Slums" campaign.
He began his journalistic career with a one-hour documentary talk, "Black Power", on the BBC Third Program. It received much praise in reviews and one of the highest audience positive ratings in the programs of that year. He made a number of subsequent documentaries for Radio 3 and 4. His foreign affairs column is now syndicated to newspapers in Asia, Africa and Canada. Over the years he has written columns for the New York Times and the Washington Post, (where he has been a guest columnist), and contributed many articles to the Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Economist, World Policy Journal, Die Zeit, El País, De Tijd, The Irish Times and Global Affairs of Moscow.
Apart from his weekly column on foreign affairs, his longer articles have appeared regularly over twenty years in Encounter and Prospect magazines, the leading British intellectual monthlies. His Encounter article, "The New Proletariat" on immigration (September, 1974) was regarded as a profound analysis of racial strife to come and anticipated the debate on immigration going on today. His interviews with leading political figures from every continent have been printed all over the world. A number of them caused political waves, including the ones with Georgio Arbatov, Presidents Leonard Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign policy advisor and Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor. His first Arbatov and Brzezinski interviews were commented on in nearly every major European, American and Asian newspaper. The first Arbatov one ran in the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post. It became the cover story in The Economist and was described by Soviet expert Edward Crankshaw of the Observer newspaper as "the most important statement to come out of Moscow since Khrushchev's speech denouncing Stalin". The Brzezinski one was publically attacked by the Soviet president, Leonid Brezhnev.
One of his latest interviews was with Paul McCartney, talking about foreign policy issues. Paul McCartney wrote an introduction to Jonathan's book "Like Water on Stone- The Story of Amnesty International" (Penguin, 2002).
Jonathan received a Silver Medal at the Venice Film Festival, 1972, for the BBC documentary film,"It's Ours Whatever They Say", about a group of mothers who fight for a piece of railway land to be made into a playground after one of their children fell to his death while playing on the roof of their block of council flats. He made 10, widely praised, full-length documentary films for the BBC, World in Action and This Week. His film, "The Diplomatic Style of Andrew Young" was repeatedly shown on the BBC and in the USA on PBS.
Jonathan was also the editorial adviser to the Independent Commission on Nuclear Disarmament and Common Security, chaired by the Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme. He was a member of the original BBC committee that conceived the idea for BBC World. He was the founder of the Haslemere Group, an action group focusing on development in the Third World. Since 1997, he is an associate of The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Jonathan is a weekly reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
From time to time he has been quoted in prominent media outlets- notably in an editorial in the Washington Post for his views on desertification and in a number of British, US newspapers and TV for his opposition to Rupert Murdoch. It was The Independent's lead front-page story. Also for his criticism of UN censorship at the time of the UN's 50th anniversary which became sizeable articles in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and part of an interview program on ABC. He has been interviewed over 500 times by radio and TV, mainly by the BBC.
He has consulted for the Aspen Institute, the International Red Cross, the World Council of Churches, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF and the Catholic Church's Commission for Justice and Peace in England and Wales.
He made many scoops in his weekly foreign affairs column in the International Herald Tribune (and often simultaneously in other papers). In a column 40 years ago he predicted that the US would have a black president before the end of the century. In 1990 he wrote a column warning there could be a virus in the future that would infect hundreds of millions of people and warned that AIDS was not the last global viral epidemic. He was the first journalist to predict a month before the event that India would soon explode its first atomic bomb; the first international journalist to call for a UN Anti-Torture Convention; to call for an International Criminal Court; one of the first foreign journalists to interview Jimmy Carter when he was governor of Georgia, a couple of years before he became president; to unveil the “Baby Killers”, Nestlé’s marketing of baby milk powder to unsuspecting Third World mothers.
In 1978 he was the first foreign journalist to write about El Sistema youth orchestras of Venezuela set up to teach uneducated Indian children of the Amazon classical playing. It led to the emergence of the world-famous conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. In 2000 the first to write that Africa was going to be a new growth “tiger”; to foresee that the Soviet Union under Gorbachev would end its political and military interest in Africa; to prove that the massacres of Indians and dissidents in Guatemala were organised from the president’s office; to prophesy in 1974 that the world was on the edge of a major food crisis. (This also ran prominently on the op-ed page of the New York Times, as did many subsequent columns including the Guatemalan one.) The first to track on the spot and write about the traffic of African migrants across the Sahara and into France. The first foreign journalist to write about the Grameen Bank in 1987. The first to predict 18 years ago that India would come near to China’s high rates of growth. His human rights columns were regularly put on President Carter’s desk and his column on Lebanon and the need for UN intervention and on the results of the Palme Commission on nuclear disarmament were circulated in the UN Security Council.