The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to journalists working to ensure the public has the “impartial truth” from conflict zones as he marked the 90th anniversary of BBC World Service.
Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall praised BBC staff for their work covering wars in Ukraine and Afghanistan, during a visit to the corporation, and Charles told broadcasters Lyse Doucet and Clive Myrie “you’re incredible, but it can’t be easy”.
During the visit, Charles appeared surprised when a young Afghan woman, who was part of an emergency evacuation of BBC staff from Kabul last August, thanked him for “saving my life”.
Surrounded by staff from the World Service at New Broadcasting House, the BBC’s London headquarters, the prince ended the visit by saying: “I know just how much it must take for many of those who are broadcasting in the most difficult of circumstances.
“But also what it takes in order to make sure that people do have access to the impartial truth, and particularly in conflict situations.
“So I’m full of admiration, for what it’s worth, for everything you do and your colleagues on the ground, and those of you who have had to escape from other countries, all too frequently nowadays, from all this depressing amount of conflict around the world – so thank you for all the efforts you make.”
During their visit, conducted with BBC director-general Tim Davie, Charles and Camilla chatted to Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, and journalist Myrie, who have both reported from Ukraine about Russia’s invasion.
When asked by Doucet if she had been watching the coverage, Camilla replied “absolutely, we do”, and later when the broadcaster spoke to the prince she asked: “We’re proud to work for the BBC at this moment and I hope you felt pride in the BBC?”
Charles replied: “Absolutely, you’re remarkable, but it takes a hell of a lot of courage, especially with all these bombs going off or cruise missiles or whatever it is.”
Myrie went on to say: “The first thing to say, no correspondent is required to go, we go because we want to go. I’m going back in about a week, just continuing the coverage of the story because it’s so important.”
The royal couple also met BBC staff from Russia and Ukraine, some of whom have been forced to leave Ukraine because of the conflict and report from Poland.
Charles and Camilla chatted on a video call with the corporation’s Russia editor Steve Rosenberg as he travelled from St Petersburg to Moscow by train, and chief correspondent Ben Brown who was on a rooftop in Kyiv.
Commenting on Russian demonstrations staged at the start of the war and lone protesters still defying President Vladimir Putin’s regime, the prince said: “People are remarkably courageous, the ones who object.”
When Brown told the couple the conflict in Ukraine, a country he has covered since 1991, was “breaking my heart” Charles replied “I agree”.
The couple also met journalists preparing for a live programme for BBC News Afghanistan delivered in Pashto language.
Reporter Shazia Haya, who was part of an emergency evacuation of BBC staff as the Taliban rolled into Kabul following the withdrawal of American troops, told Charles: “Thank- you so much for saving my life. Thank-you.”
Charles reacted in typically modest fashion, saying with a nervous chuckle: “I don’t know about that.”
Haroon Rahman, head of monitoring for BBC Afghan, told the royal couple how he was also evacuated from the country as the Taliban stormed the capital and took refuge in Britain.
An Afghan specialist with more than a decade of experience in monitoring media and developments in Afghanistan, he said: “I want to thank the British people for the evacuation, because of this we have been able to come here, and thanks to the British troops.”
The BBC launched the World Service, originally called the Empire Service, on December 19 1932 but Lord Reith, the corporation’s first director general, made a gloomy prediction saying: “The programmes will neither be very interesting nor very good.!
However, it went on to become an integral part of the BBC’s global output and today delivers news in English and 41 other languages on radio, TV and digital to a weekly audience of around 364 million people and is funded predominately by the UK licence fee.
Liliane Landor, director of BBC World Service, who hosted the royal visit, said afterwards: “Their interest in our work in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Russia is a testament to the fantastic reporting by our teams for audiences at home and around the world.”