Prince Charles pays tribute to bravery of journalists working in conflict zones

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Prince Charles on Thursday paid tribute to the bravery of journalists working in conflict zones.

He visited the BBC London headquarters to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the World Service.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured the corporation’s Portland Place base Thursday morning, sitting in on rehearsals with the BBC NewsAfghanistan and speaking via video link to reporters on the ground in Ukraine and Russia.

The heir was left startled when a young Afghani woman, who was part of an emergency evacuation of BBC staff from Kabul last August as the Taliban took the city, thanked him for “saving my life”.

They visited the BBC London headquarters to celebrate the 90th anniversary (PA)
They visited the BBC London headquarters to celebrate the 90th anniversary (PA)

At a meeting with journalists preparing for a live programme with BBC Pashto for audiences in Afghanistan, the Prince of Wales was thanked by reporter Shazia Haya on behalf of Britain for helping escape the brutal takeover last summer.

Ms Haya was part of an emergency evacuation of BBC as the Taliban rolled into Kabul following the withdrawal of American troops.

She told the Prince: “Thank you so much for saving my life. Thank you.”

The Prince of Wales reacted in typically modest fashion saying with a nervous chuckle: “I don’t know about that.”

Before sitting in on the broadcast, head of monitoring for BBC Afghan Haroon Rahman told the royal couple how he was also evacuated from the country as the Taliban stormed the capital before taking refuge in Britain.

An Afghan specialist with more than a decade of experience in monitoring media and developments in the country, 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 Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured the corporation’s Portland Place base Thursday morning (PA)
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall toured the corporation’s Portland Place base Thursday morning (PA)

“We were surrounded by all Taliban as well who were firing into the air. It was a scary time, but we are here and thankful.”

Charles said: “I’m so glad. It sounded terrifying, trying to get through all the crowds.”

The Prince and Camilla then entered a conference room specially set up for a special video conference with BBC anchor Ben Brown on location in Kyiv and Russia editor Steve Rosenberg who joined the call on a train travelling from St Petersburg to Moscow.

The journalists told Charles and Camilla of the challenges of reporting from the ground amid the Russian invasion.

Appearing overcome with emotion, veteran anchor Ben Brown said: “I’ve been coming here for a couple of decades now and it’s just such an amazing country, with beautiful people here and it breaks my heart to see what’s happened to be honest.”

Charles told him: “Well for what it’s worth, if you could to the people you come across send our good wishes and our sympathy.”

Addressing Mr Rosenberg, Charles said: “I saw you last night in St Petersburg!”

In an intermittent line, the Russia editor told how “the last couple of months have been pretty crazy” and how he had been “trying to get across to the south and to the north, to try and get a feel of what ordinary Rusasians are feeling”.

He added how his job had been safe despite the worsening crisis but “it is our colleagues who have been forced to leave their roles working in Russia and Ukraine we feel for”.

BBC anchor Clive Myrie and Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet also chatted with the couple.

Prince Charles told them: "You’re incredible, but it can’t be easy."

When asked by Doucet if she had been watching the coverage, the duchess replied: “Absolutely, we do.”

Later when the broadcaster spoke to the prince, she said: "We’re proud to work for the BBC at this moment and I hope you felt pride in the BBC?

“And I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the work you have done in the Blue Mountains in Afghanistan, and now for Ukraine, but please don’t forget the other conflicts.”

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 is that 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."

Speaking to the Duchess, Lyse said: “Thank you for all the work you do with women and girls.”

To which Camilla replied: "It is you who are doing the most important job."

In an impromptu speech to BBC staff at the corporation’s central London base, Charles said: “It gives me enormous pleasure to join you, albeit very briefly for this occasion because above all I just wanted to wish you all endless congratulations on reaching your 90th anniversary because I know just how important the World Service has become over all those years.

“Particularly when you think back to the last war, the Second World War, when you were broadcasting in 40 languages and it made a great difference to be able to broadcast to the freed French from here, thanks to all your predecessors.

“And I know too, people like Aung San Suu Kyi, who I have known for some years, and of course Terry Waite found enormous encouragement as a result of the broadcasts that you made.

“And 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 to ensure that people do have access to the impartial truth and particularly in conflict situations.

“So I am full of admiration 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, thank you for all the efforts you make.

“And I hope for those of you who have come to this country, that we have given you a welcome and for your families and that you find in many of the quarters, for instance in London where I go and find endless different communities who have fascinating food and goodness what else, you add enormously to the diversity and interest and the cultural life of this country, so thank you and happy 90th birthday.”

Tim Davie said: “90 years and we are immensely proud. When it was launched the director general broadcast five broadcasts that day, so I think we have given that idea up actually as it wouldn’t be a popular one.

“But he saw incalculable value in this service and he did in a brilliant exercise in managing expectations said that service might not be either very interesting, nor very good, but things did improve.

“That Christmas of course we had the first Christmas broadcast and it was your great-grandfather (George V - first ever royal Christmas broadcast), your illustrious great grandfather, who broadcast from the microphone we have now on the fourth floor and we haven’t looked back since.

“I must say it is a huge privilege to have you hear, we all feel very grateful to be recognised in this way and personally I am so proud of the teams in this day and age, which we have so much discussion here, is the value of fair truthful impartial, reporting, which is so important to the world today and these teams are doing brilliant work.”

The BBC World Service delivers news content around the world in English and 41 other language services on Radio, TV and Digital.

Funded predominantly by the UK licence fee, BBC World Service reaches a weekly audience of around 364 million people around the world.

It is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports and in recent years.

With additional funding from the UK Foreign Office, BBC World Service has undergone its biggest expansion since the 1940s.

It now operates in languages from Pidgin to Korean, with new and expanded bureaux in locations Cairo to Seoul, Belgrade to Bangkok.

Its largest news operations outside the UK are in Delhi and Nairobi.

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