John Simpson reveals life-saving personal interventions: 'If you see somebody doing something really, really’ve got a duty to step in'


BBC world affairs editor John Simpson has spoken about making two potentially live-saving personal interventions whilst reporting from trouble-spots.

In an interview for the Radio Times he has revealed that he “waded in” and stopped a crowd of Chinese protestors from smashing the head in, as he put it, of a Chinese soldier in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He said that he “whacked them to one side”.

The other occasion was in Iraq in 2003:

I had this injury so I had a walking stick. There was a house with a flat roof, just on the other side of the road, and some poor old boy was hanging up a carpet to dry and one of the US marines I was with swung his rifle round and shouted out ‘Sniperrr! Sniperrrr!’ and I whacked him in the back with my stick.

Commenting on the ethics of journalists doing more than just report in such situations, he said:

I don’t go interfering in things by and large. But I do think if you see somebody doing something really, really awful and you could stop it, you’ve got a duty to step in. I don’t think you can say, ‘I’m a journalist,’ and do nothing.

Simpson, 68, was being interviewed to promote The Editors – the BBC One news programme that he presents.

The Editors launched in March and “offers some of the BBC's most senior journalists the chance to discuss some of the burning issues of the day”.


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