Tributes paid to the late "kind" and "fearless" BBC journalist, George Alagiah

John Aligiah

The 67-year-old journalist and author for the BBC, George Alagiah, has passed away from cancer.

He was referred to as "a great broadcaster," "a kind colleague," and "a thoughtful journalist" by the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. ".

It would be difficult to find a friend or colleague who is gentler, kinder, more perceptive, and braver, according to fellow correspondent John Simpson. ".

Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, said Alagiah "was loved by all.".

George was one of the best and bravest journalists of his generation, according to Mr. Davie, who presented the news flawlessly while reporting fearlessly from all over the world.

The public could sense that he was more than just a superb journalist; he also had a wonderful humanity. ".

Alagiah had a very successful career that took him from Southern Africa to many other parts of the world via the BBC News at Six studio, during which time he won numerous awards.

Allan Little, a fellow broadcaster, claimed that empathy was the "great strength" of his mentor and old friend.

When they were both stationed in Johannesburg about 30 years ago, Mr. Little and Alagiah first met. He continued, "I learned from him, I used to watch him and kind of marvel at the way he engaged with people.

The fact that so many people wanted to talk to him and I watched him gain their trust was striking. He could speak to anyone, from heads of state to children in a refugee camp. ".

He continued, "He didn't want to be dramatic; he just wanted to be fair. "And I took away from that that human decency is the foundation of good reporting and decent journalism. ".

George Alagiah reporting after the tsunami in his home nation of Sri Lanka in 2005
In 2005, Alagiah reported from his native Sri Lanka following the tsunami.
George Alagiah alongside former BBC News co-presenter Natasha Kaplinsky
Alagiah and former Natasha Kaplinsky co-presenter for BBC News.

After learning that the broadcaster's cancer, which was initially diagnosed in 2014, had spread, Alagiah's agent disclosed last year that the broadcaster would be taking a break from TV.

In April 2022, he had returned to the BBC's News at Six, noting that it had "been such an important part of keeping energised and motivated" to be in the newsroom.

It was "amazing to watch" him work, according to Milton Nkosi, the former head of the BBC's Africa bureau, because he was "always very thoughtful in times of war, rebellion, and rioting. ".

He said, "George was the calming voice of reason when we are being shot at with tear gas and rubber bullets, trying to get to the heart of the story.

George would be the one to calm us down because, at that point, we all become a little bit emotional about the story, raise our voices, and act panicked. ".

The former BBC news correspondent and host of the News Agents podcast, Jon Sopel, called Alagiah "the most principled, kind, and honorable man I have ever worked with.". What a waste. ".

During a broadcast, BBC News presenter Clive Myrie paused to pay a special tribute. Myrie praised him as a mentor, friend, and colleague. "We loved him here at BBC News," she said.

While Frank Gardner, the corporation's security correspondent, recalled that one of his "fondest memories" of Alagiah was when his friend had visited him in the hospital in 2004. We spoke for hours about the continent he adored and spent a large portion of his career covering as he brought me his book, A Passage to Africa. " .

Outside of journalism, Alagiah's first book, The Burning Land, a suspenseful look at murder and corruption in South Africa, was nominated for a Society of Authors award in 2020 that honors the best new authors over 60.

He was referred to as "the kindest, bravest and most inspiring people I have ever had the privilege to know" by fellow author Sarfraz Mansoor.

"Never complained about his lot in life and was always interested in other people. Without him, all of us are worse off. ".

Gordon Corera, a BBC security correspondent, noted that working with Alagiah defied the adage "never meet your heroes.".

He tweeted, "He was an inspiration and a role model as a journalist. "And when I had the good fortune to work with him, I discovered that he was a genuinely kind and generous colleague. ".

Alagiah was asked if he felt any obligation to serve as an example for other non-white people who aspire to work in journalism during a BBC Newscast interview last year.

Actually, it's a somewhat embarrassing incident in my professional capacity, he said. "Because I was the BBC's first fully qualified foreign correspondent and person of color when I started out in — dare I say it — 1989. ".

In response to a time when he almost turned down an award, he said, "I just wanted to be a really good journalist; I didn't want to be the best black or brown journalist.".

The person who said this to me in private said, "You idiot, you think it's about you, don't you? These awards are about all the people who look at you and think, you know, if that guy Alagiah can do that, I can certainly do it. '".

In her eulogy, LBC's Sangita Myska emphasized the impact that the success of the Asian journalist born in Sri Lanka, Alagiah, had on other Asian journalists.

My dad used to shout, "George is on!" when the BBC's George Alagiah was on television when I was a child. We would dash to see the man who served as an example for a generation of British Asian journalists. The UK as a whole repeated that scene. You're welcome, George. RIP xx. ".

George Alagiah alongside fellow BBC News anchor Sophie Raworth
Alongside Sophie Raworth, another BBC News anchor, in the studio.

On Monday, Naga Munchetty, who was visibly upset, interrupted the sports news segment on BBC Radio 5 Live to announce the death. She apologized for her "emotional voice.". The newsroom adored him so much. ".

"He was someone I greatly looked up to," she continued, "because it wasn't his ego, it was never his ego that reassured me, it was the way he obviously cared about what he was reporting.

"You almost got the impression that he broke down those barriers as a newscaster. ".

Chris Bryant MP emphasized how much Alagiah had accomplished in promoting awareness of bowel cancer symptoms.

Everyone affected by cancer or who has had it will understand the sadness this moment brings, he said. "And thanks to the wonderful doctors. ".

Bowel Cancer UK CEO Genevieve Edwards emphasized that he never "shied away from talking about it" and that this "will have helped countless other people living with bowel cancer and will probably have prompted people to go and see their doctors maybe with symptoms that they've been worrying about.". ".

"A good man, a rival on the foreign correspondent beat but above all a friend," wrote Sky News host Mark Austin.

"If empathy is the key to good journalism, which it frequently is, George Alagiah possessed it in abundance. He was aware of injustice and the ability of good reporting to at least bring it to light. ".

Sheila Fogarty, a former BBC broadcaster and journalist, described Alagiah as "a gentleman and a brilliant reporter.".

Alagiah was described as "one of the most delightful, talented, and charming men I could ever have wished to know" by former BBC royal correspondent Jenny Bond, who also worked with him.

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