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John Simpson


John Simpson

John Simpson is the BBC's World Affairs Editor. His career with the corporation spans more than 40 years and has seen him visit in excess of 120 countries and interview around 150 kings, presidents and prime ministers.

John Simpson's first role with the BBC was as a trainee sub-editor in Radio News, however he was soon sent out in the field as a political reporter. On his first day he asked the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, as to whether he was going to call an election, at which point he was promptly punched in the stomach.

Simpson later took stints as Political Editor, Diplomatic Editor and presenter of the Nine O'Clock News, as well as being the correspondent in South Africa, Brussels and Dublin. He was appointed World Affairs Editor in 1988.

His assignments have seen him cover the biggest international news stories of the last three and a half decades. He covered the vicious fighting in Angola in the late 1970s, was in Romania when Ceaucescu fell and in South Africa as Mandela was released. He flew to Tehran with Ayatollah Khomeini to witness the Iranian revolution against the Shah and saw Communism fall in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Simpson dodged bullets in Tiananmen Square, was shelled in Afghanistan and bombed with poison gas in the Iran-Iraq War. He stayed behind in Baghdad during the Gulf War, ignoring an order from his employers to leave. Another time, a Palestinian soldier ordered him to kneel in the road and pulled the trigger of his gun.

He stayed behind again, when other journalists were evacuating, to cover the Kosovo crisis from Belgrade in 1999, filing reports for all BBC outlets around-the-clock. In April the following year he was named Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year for his reports – the second time he picked up the gong.

He was at the centre of the action yet again when he strode in to Kabul as the Taliban were overthrown. He dressed as a woman to avoid trouble from any soldiers and joked at the time that the BBC had liberated the city.

Perhaps he was at greatest risk, though, when his team were bombed by the Americans in Iraq 2003 in the worst ‘friendly fire' incident of the conflict. In all, 18 people were killed, but Simpson was able to broadcast directly from the scene.

His has been an extraordinary life that gives him a unique perspective on the world. His current and political affairs programme, Simpson's World, is broadcast in 200 countries and has seen him interview more than 100 people in 40 countries.

As well as the RTS awards, Simpson has received three BAFTAs, a Golden Nymph award, a Peabody Trust award, a special jury's award at the Bayeaux War Correspondents Awards and an International Emmy. He received a CBE in the Gulf War Honours.

John Simpson is the author of:


  • Strange Places, Questionable People (1998)
  • A Mad World, My Masters (2000)
  • News from No Man's Land (2002)
  • The Wars Against Saddam: Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad (2004)
  • Days from a Different World: A Memoir of Childhood (2005)
  • Not Quite World's End: A Traveller's Tales (2007)
  • Twenty Tales From The War Zone (2007)
  • Unreliable Sources (2010)


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