George Alagiah: BBC newsreader remembered for his

BBC newsreader George Alagiah has been remembered as “an outstanding journalist” who shone with “integrity and decency”.

The Sri Lanka-born journalist and face of BBC One’s News At Six since 2007 died aged 67 on Monday surrounded by his family and loved ones.

His agent Mary Greenham said in a statement: “George fought until the bitter end but sadly that battle ended earlier today.

“George was deeply loved by everybody who knew him, whether it was a friend, a colleague or a member of the public. He simply was a wonderful human being.”

George Alagiah, journalist and television presenter is made an OBE by The Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2008

Image: Alagiah was made an OBE by the Queen

The award-winning journalist was diagnosed in 2014 with stage four bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

He endured two rounds of chemotherapy and several operations, including the removal of most of his liver.

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.”

News reader George Alagiah at Buckingham Palace, after collecting his OBE from the Queen in 2008

News reader George Alagiah accompanied by his wife Frances and sons Adam, 21, left and Matt, 17, at Buckingham Palace, after collecting his OBE from the Queen in 2008

Image: George Alagiah with his wife Frances and sons Adam and Matt in 2008 after he received his OBE

Tributes to ‘an all round lovely human being’

Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce said Alagiah was “that rare thing – a first-rate journalist and an all round lovely human being”.

“Integrity and decency shone through him. That and a mischievous sense of humour with an endearing giggle,” she said.

“I remember his 60th birthday party, surrounded by his wonderful family and his glamorous sisters like so many birds of paradise.

“It was an intimate family affair and I know George counted his blessings to be there with the people he loved so much.

“He fought with all he had to stay with them as long as he could. We loved him in the newsroom and we – I – miss him so much.”

Nick Robinson, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, paid tribute saying: “George was a brilliant journalist, a lovely man and an inspiring example to all fighting serious illness. His friends will miss him deeply.”

‘The most decent, principled, kindest, most honourable man I have ever worked with’

The BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson said: “Deeply, deeply sorry to hear about dear George Alagiah.

“A gentler, kinder, more insightful and braver friend and colleague would be hard to find. I loved having his company in the BBC World Affairs Unit, and his progress after that was a pleasure to watch.”

Podcast host Jon Sopel, former BBC News North America editor, added: “Tributes will rightly be paid to a fantastic journalist and brilliant broadcaster – but George was the most decent, principled, kindest, most honourable man I have ever worked with. What a loss.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks to British journalist and BBC news presenter, George Alagiah (R) who was born in Sri Lanka, during a reception in Clarence House, central London on October 24, 2013. The reception was for members of British Indian and Sri Lankan communities, ahead of the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall's tour of India and Sri Lanka in November. AFP PHOTO / POOL / LEON NEAL

Image: The then Duchess of Cornwall with Alagiah during a reception in Clarence House in 2013

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “deeply saddened” by the news of Alagiah’s death.

“A much-loved face of BBC News for decades, George will also be remembered for his brilliant, fearless journalism as foreign correspondent. He rightly won awards for his evocative, boundary-pushing reporting,” he said.

“British journalism has lost a talent. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

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.”

George Alagiah pictured Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2019

‘Huge advocate’ for bowel cancer charity

The chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK also paid tribute to the newsreader, saying he was a “huge advocate” of the charity.

“We’re deeply saddened to hear our supporter George Alagiah OBE has died. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and everyone who knew and loved him,” Genevieve Edwards said.

“Since he shared the news of his diagnosis in 2014, George, one of the BBC’s most iconic and well-loved broadcasters, has been a huge advocate of our work.

He supported our campaign calling on the NHS to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50, shared his experience of the disease to raise lifesaving awareness of the symptoms, as well as speaking to our wonderful supporters about living with advanced bowel cancer at events that have raised thousands of pounds for the charity.

“Most recently, he hosted our podcast – he gave not only his time but his phenomenal broadcasting skills, his incredible warmth and his personal insight into living with the disease.

“We will never forget how much of his precious time he gave to the charity and the kindness he showed to our supporters during a very difficult time in his life.”

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, said: “I am very sorry to hear that George Alagiah has died with bowel cancer and my thoughts are with his friends and family.

“Talking about cancer can save lives and that George was able to speak so openly and honestly about living with cancer will undoubtedly make a difference to many others: I am very grateful that he felt able to do this.

“With all cancers, acting at the first sign of symptoms can make a big difference to how cancer can be treated, and as George often reminded people, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer – so if you have noticed any changes such as blood in your poo, a change in bowel habits or pain and bloating – please do come forward for checks as soon as possible.”

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