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October 1, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:24am

Tributes to ‘bright star’ BBC journalist Hanna Yusuf after sudden death aged 27

By Charlotte Tobitt

A BBC journalist who has died suddenly aged 27 has been described as a “bright star” who helped “break boundaries” as a Muslim woman.

Hanna Yusuf spoke out about her decision to wear the hijab as a “feminist statement” in 2015 and last month exclusively uncovered “inhumane” working conditions at Costa Coffee franchise stores for the BBC.

Yusuf (pictured) most recently worked as a reporter for the BBC News website and was previously a producer for the BBC News Channel and BBC News at One, and a researcher for BBC News at Six and Ten.

Tributes have been paid following her death at the weekend.

In a statement, her family said: “Hanna was a dedicated young vibrant professional who became a bridge between the media and the community, helping break boundaries in providing a voice and representation.

“Many will know Hanna for her incredible contributions to journalism and for her work at the BBC.

“While we mourn her loss, we hope that Hanna’s legacy will serve as an inspiration and beacon to her fellow colleagues and to her community and her meaningful memory and the people she has touched for many years lives on.”

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Director of BBC News Fran Unsworth said: “This is terrible news that has left us all deeply saddened.

“Hanna Yusuf was a talented young journalist who was widely admired across the BBC and our utmost sympathies go to her family and many friends. Hanna will be much missed.”

BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed said BBC News was “in mourning after one of our brightest stars died”.

He added that Yusuf was “sharp, witty and allowed us all to understand the important stuff a little better”.

Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, said his team was “devastated” by Yusuf’s death, adding that her “smile, intelligence and heart made all our lives better”.

Before moving to the BBC, Yusuf worked as a reporter and features writer for the Independent and contributed to the Times, ITV, BBC Three, Muslim News, The National and Grazia magazine as a freelance.

She also worked at the Guardian after receiving its Scott Trust bursary, which helps aspiring journalists study for an MA in journalism.

Guardian editor Katharine Viner described Yusuf as a “talented journalist and lovely person” in a tribute last night.

Yusuf also wrote a weekly arts and culture column during a seven-month internship at now-defunct women’s lifestyle website The Pool in 2016.

Lauren Laverne, a co-founder of The Pool, said she was “absolutely heartbroken” by the news. “Hanna always shone – she was gentle and kind, clever and hardworking,” Laverne wrote on Twitter.

“It was a joy watching her career take off after she started out with us at The Pool years ago. My heart goes out to her family and friends.”

BBC colleague Megha Mohan, the corporation’s gender and identity correspondent, said: “Hanna was 27. She spoke five languages fluently.

“Just this year she broke devastatingly sensitive stories about Shamima Begum and working conditions at Costa Coffee.

“She surrounded herself with women as talented as her and elevated them. Our industry has lost so so much.”

BBC journalist Alex Taylor, who worked with Yusuf on the UK desk before he moved teams, described her as a “beautiful person” and a “talented young journalist with “oceans of potential”.

In a blog paying tribute to his friend, Taylor said that when they began working together it was “immediately clear that she was a great writer, with a strong passion for original reporting”.

The Black Journalists’ Collective UK Group described Yusuf as a “ bright star” and added: “May she rest in peace and may God give her family strength at this difficult time.”

Yusuf was born in Somalia and studied French and Spanish at Queen Mary, University of London before receiving a merit for her MA in Newspaper Journalism at City University.

Her work has also included speaking to a mother-of-nine who fled Somalia only to suffer life-changing injuries in a hate crime attack in Leicester, writing about why some homeless people chose the street over shelter despite freezing temperatures, and going on the ground for the BBC at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.

In a joint exclusive with the Times earlier this year, she revealed that a lawyer for ISIS bride Shamima Begum had written to the Home Secretary claiming she had been groomed and trafficked.

Tell Mama, a group which monitors Muslim attacks in the UK, said Yusuf was a “committed, compassionate, empathetic and very talented journalist”.

“This is such a big loss,” the group said. “May her legacy of important journalistic work continue to inspire others.”

Picture: Phil Coomes/BBC

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