Sri Lanka-born BBC newsreader George Alagiah passes away
Sky News: BBC newsreader George Alagiah has died at the age of 67, his agent has said.
The Sri Lanka-born journalist – the face of BBC One’s News At Six since 2007 – was diagnosed in 2014 with stage four bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
He endured two rounds of chemotherapy and several operations, including the removal of most of his liver.
In October 2015 he announced his treatment was over and returned to BBC News At Six on 10 November.
Alagiah joined the BBC in 1989 and spent many years as one of the corporation’s leading foreign correspondents before moving to presenting.
In a statement, his agent Mary Greenham said: “I am so terribly sorry to inform you that George Alagiah died peacefully today, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
“George fought until the bitter end but sadly that battle ended earlier today.
“George was deeply loved by everybody who knew him, whether it was a friend, a colleague or a member of the public. He simply was a wonderful human being.
“My thoughts are with Fran, the boys and his wider family.”
‘One of the best and bravest journalists of his generation’
BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “George was one of the best and bravest journalists of his generation who reported fearlessly from across the world as well as presenting the news flawlessly.
“He was more than just an outstanding journalist, audiences could sense his kindness, empathy and wonderful humanity. He was loved by all and we will miss him enormously.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the news of George Alagiah’s passing.
“A much-loved face of BBC News for decades, George will also be remembered for his brilliant, fearless journalism as foreign correspondent. He rightly won awards for his evocative, boundary-pushing reporting.
“British journalism has lost a talent. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
The BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson said: “Deeply, deeply sorry to hear about dear George Alagiah.
“A gentler, kinder, more insightful and braver friend and colleague would be hard to find. I loved having his company in the BBC World Affairs Unit, and his progress after that was a pleasure to watch.”
Podcast host Jon Sopel, former North America editor of BBC News, said: “Tributes will rightly be paid to a fantastic journalist and brilliant broadcaster – but George was the most decent, principled, kindest, most honourable man I have ever worked with. What a loss.”
Sky News presenter Mark Austin said: “This breaks my heart. A good man, a rival on the foreign correspondent beat but above all a friend.
“If good journalism is about empathy, and it often is, George Alagiah had it in spades. He understood injustice and the power of good reporting to highlight it, if not correct it.”
An illustrious career as a print reporter, author, foreign correspondent and presenter
Alagiah first began hosting the 6pm news bulletin in early 2003, but stepped up to front it solo four years later following the departure of his co-host, Natasha Kaplinsky.
He was previously a prominent foreign correspondent, often as a specialist in Africa with coverage of civil wars in Somalia and Liberia, as well as the genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago.
Throughout his career, he interviewed central political figures, among them former South African president Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and ex-Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.
Before joining the BBC, Alagiah worked as a print journalist and went on to write a number of books including A Home From Home, which looked at what it means to be British.
Throughout his illustrious career, he also presented other shows such as Mixed Britannia, looking at the UK’s mixed-race population.
He was made an OBE in the 2008 New Year Honours.
Battle with cancer
Alagiah’s cancer returned in December 2017 and he underwent further treatment before again returning to work.
He took another break from studio duties in October 2021 to deal with a further spread of cancer, before returning in April 2022.
Alagiah announced he was taking a break from presenting the BBC’s News At Six in October last year following another scan.
He spoke openly about living with cancer, joining a videocast for the charity Bowel Cancer UK in 2020 in which he said he sometimes felt he had the “easy part” – living with bowel cancer while his loved ones had to watch.
“Those of us living with cancer know that it affects our families almost as much as ourselves,” he said.
“In some ways, I’ve felt through my six-plus years living with cancer that sometimes I have the easy part… my job is just to stay fit and my family has got to watch all of the other things.”
Alagiah is survived by his wife, Frances Robathan, and two children.
Source: Sky News