Watch CBS News

Remembering murdered journalist George Polk

Remembering murdered CBS journalist George Polk
Remembering murdered CBS journalist George Polk 02:27

This month marks 75 years since the murder of legendary CBS newsman George Polk. Our remembrance comes from CBS News' Steven Portnoy, host of the radio documentary, "Who Killed George Polk?"

You may have heard his name before, probably from the George Polk Awards, given out each year for courageous journalism. Polk was very likely killed because of what he was bravely reporting.

During a civil war in Greece in the late 1940s, Polk depicted the right-wing Greek government as corrupt. At the time, the U.S. had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up that government as it battled communist guerillas. Our reporter had reason to suspect the Greek authorities were hoarding that U.S. aid.

The legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow called Polk a "34-year-old, tall, lean, blonde American, full of courage and an insatiable appetite for truth."

George Polk of CBS News, pictured in August 1946.  CBS via Getty Images

George Polk wanted to bring Americans the full story. He aimed to interview the leader of the Greek communists. A week later, Polk's body was pulled out of Salonika Bay, shot in the back of the head.

The Greek authorities tortured a suspected communist until he falsely confessed a role. He was sentenced to life in prison. But compounding that injustice, documents show U.S. officials conspired to suppress doubts about the man's innocence – a Cold War coverup.

Today, around the world, journalist killings and detentions are on the rise. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 67 media workers were killed last year alone.

From Jamal Khashoggi to Austin Tice to Evan Gershkovich, reporters are increasingly being targeted because of the work they do for readers, viewers and listeners, just as Polk was targeted 75 years ago this month.

It's important that we not forget.

Stream the CBS News radio documentary "Who Killed George Polk?" here: 

Listen to this episode on ART19

For more info:

Story produced by Robert Marston. Editor: Emanuele Secci. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.