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July 24, 2023

BBC News presenter George Alagiah dies aged 67

Alagiah was described as "one of the best and bravest journalists of his generation".

By Charlotte Tobitt

BBC News presenter George Alagiah has died aged 67 after living with cancer for nine years.

Alagiah died on Monday morning, the corporation announced at lunchtime. He was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014.

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.”

Alagiah first joined the BBC more than 30 years ago, spending time as a foreign correspondent and then presenter on the BBC One O’Clock News, Nine O’Clock News and BBC Four News before becoming one of the BBC News at Six’s main presenters in 2003. He also presented his own show on BBC World News for many years.

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He was appointed an OBE for services to journalism in 2008.

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Announcing the news to viewers on the BBC News at One, Clive Myrie said: “On a personal note, George touched all of us here in the newsroom with his kindness and generosity, his warmth and good humour. We loved him here at BBC News and I loved him as a mentor, colleague and friend. His spirit, strength and courage in the later years of this life is something his family can be so proud of. Journalism has lost a giant.”

Alagiah’s first BBC job was as a foreign affairs correspondent in 1989. He subsequently became Africa correspondent. Among his well-respected work, he won recognition for his reporting on the famine and war in Somalia, on the Kurdish genocide led by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and on the civil war in Burundi, all in the early 1990s.

Alagiah was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2014 and, after a break for treatment, returned to presenting the news the following year. He subsequently continued to present when he was not undergoing treatment, but the cancer spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live in 2020 he was “not going to spend the time I’ve got worrying. I want to spend the time I’ve got living and doing the things I want to do and enjoying my family and friends.”

Alagiah had two sons with Frances Robathan, his wife of 40 years, and three grandchildren. He was born in Sri Lanka before moving to Ghana and then England during his childhood.

Tributes to George Alagiah

Soon after the BBC announced the news of his death, journalists and news viewers alike began sharing tributes to the “much-loved” Alagiah (see a selection below).

Christian Fraser, a chief presenter on the BBC News channel, said: “George was truly one of the nicest, most talented men in broadcasting. Such sad news. He fought so hard, always positive. He was incredibly proud of his family. He told me last year that he wanted to do all he could to spend as much time with them as he could.”

And 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 …”

Many of the tributes describe Alagiah as a “brilliant” journalist, a “kind” man who supported others in the BBC newsroom, and one who inspired a generation of British Asians to go into journalism.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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