Red Reporter: Covert Correspondent for East Germany

by John Green
2009; Paperback; 347pp; ISBN 978-0-9558228-1-0

‘Television correspondents often write books as recycled products of their foreign reports. They tend to be self-indulgent; self-criticism is not on their agenda. In contrast to such self-portrayals John Green stays reassuringly humble. He is plagued by doubts about his profession and is, in the end, determined to hang up his tools. That’s an honest move, more honourable and creditable than a number of other accounts that have been written by former comrades from the GDR.’

Peter Schütt, Die Tageszeitung


Red Reporter
is the reminiscences of someone who worked for 20 years as a covert correspondent in the West on behalf of the German Democratic Republic’s (East Germany) state television. It reveals how the GDR – in its early years ostracised as an illegitimate state by the western world – obtained its Western news coverage and was able to report from countries viscerally opposed to socialism in any form. It also explains how this coverage was based on a tradition of solidarity with the struggling peoples of the world and as a means of promoting the idea of socialism.


John Green grew up in Coventry. After abandoning a zoology degree course after his second year at Bristol University, he switched to Drama. In 1964 he made the adventurous move to the German Democratic Republic to study film at the National Film School in Babelsberg, near Potsdam. He was the sole British student in the country. Returning to his native Britain in 1968, he became television correspondent for the GDR and spent 22 years reporting from around the world. Because the GDR, particularly at the height of the Cold War, was not officially recognised as an independent state, he and his colleagues were obliged to work anonymously and quasi-clandestinely in order to obtain the footage they needed.


‘Green’s reports from fascist Greece, Ireland, Grenada, Chile, El Salvador and the so-called Third World countries of Africa convey a fascinating insight into the life of a reporter from  “the other side”.’

Dirk Ruder, Unsere Zeit

During the closing decades of the 20th century, the author travelled to many parts of the world in his work as a television correspondent, covering liberation struggles in Africa and Latin America, social and political campaigns in the USA and labour struggles in Britain and Western Europe. As a reporter on the front line he had a unique insight into the causes of conflict, the pertaining historical parameters and the political forces at work.  In its scope this book offers a special view of history through the eyes, as the author puts it, of a foot soldier rather than through the lenses of the leaders and generals who invariably write history. The book is also a welcome antidote to the plethora of simplistic ‘Stasiland’ caricatures of the GDR as merely a tyranny, peopled only by spies and victims. It is an honest and revealing account, which will be of interest to anyone concerned with the communications media and politics.

1 copy, including P&P


‘John’s camera was never neutral and never cowardly. His work to publicise the struggles of the world’s oppressed are exemplified by his comments on his dangerous work in Pinochet’s Chile: “We felt that if the Chileans were brave enough to do what they were doing – risking bullets, beatings and torture – then it was not asking too much of ourselves to risk making a film”.’
Denver Walker, Morning Star

‘I really was fascinated by the book, which should be in the possession of everyone who has any political knowledge or concern.’
Don Wright

‘It is a fascinating account’.
Günter Berghaus
Reader in Theatre History Bristol University