BBC World Affairs

Brian Hanrahan, the BBC’s World Affairs correspondent, died this morning. He was 61. 

Earlier this year Brian was diagnosed with cancer and his treatment had been going well. But, 10 days ago, he was admitted to hospital with an infection and his condition deteriorated.

For nearly 30 years, Brian roamed the world reporting for the BBC. He covered Asia from Hong Kong in the Eighties, reporting on the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in China, and the assassination of Indira Ghandi in India.

He moved to Moscow when Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader, returning to Russia last year to interview President Gorbachev. In 1989, he was in Beijing when the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, famously reporting on the fall of the wall as Berlin was reunited.

Earlier this year he returned to Poland – from where he’d reported on the rise of Solidarity – to cover the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski.

In recent years, Brian had travelled to many countries, and covered ceremonial and state events such as the anniversaries of D-Day and the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother and the Pope. He was a regular voice on BBC Radio 4 as presenter of both The World At One and The World This Weekend.

But it was the Falklands conflict that cemented Brian’s place in the heart of a nation – with one well-turned phrase. In 1982, he famously “counted them all out and counted them all back” to ensure he could tell the story, despite MoD reporting restrictions.

Last week, as the Harriers landed for the final time, the crews of RAF Cottesmore recorded a get-well message to Brian.

Mark Thompson, BBC Director-General, said: “Brian was a journalist of unimpeachable integrity and outstanding judgement, but his personal kindness and humanity also came through. That is why audiences and everyone who knew him here will miss him very much.”

Mark Byford, Deputy Director General and Head of Journalism, said: “Brian Hanrahan was one of the BBC’s greatest journalists, both as a reporter in the field and as a presenter. His work covering the Falklands War produced some of the most memorable war reporting of the last 50 years.

“His great craft of using words sparingly but powerfully is a lasting memory for me. A beautiful writer, a beautiful man, whose passion for the BBC and for high standards in journalism inspired us all. All Brian’s friends and colleagues across BBC News offer their sympathies to his family today and salute one of the giants of broadcast journalism.”

Helen Boaden, BBC Director of News, added: “Brian was a great storyteller – from Tiananmen Square to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Gorbachev in Russia, he brought the big stories to audiences in the UK and around the world. But it was the Falklands that cemented Brian’s reputation with a single well-turned phrase.”

Jon Williams, World Editor, said: “It’s a mark of the man that even last week as he lay in his hospital bed, he was texting colleagues to say how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be able to cover the last flight of the Harrier.

“Last week, as the Harriers landed for the final time, the crews of RAF Cottesmore recorded a get-well message to Brian – they, like us, valued him as a friend.”

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