Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk: Celebrated Middle East Correspondent of The Independent Dies Aged 74


DUBLIN, Ireland (Combined Sources) — Robert Fisk, a veteran Middle East correspondent for The Independent and the most celebrated journalist of his era, died on October 30 after an illness. He was 74.

Fisk was renowned for his courage in questioning official narratives from governments and publishing what he uncovered in frequently brilliant prose.

He joined The Independent in 1989 from The Times and rapidly became its most recognizable writer and searched-for byline. He continued to write for The Independent until his death in Dublin.

Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent until last week and now managing director, said: “Fearless, uncompromising, determined and utterly committed to uncovering the truth and reality at all costs, Robert Fisk was the greatest journalist of his generation. The fire he lit at The Independent will burn on.”

Much of what Fisk wrote was controversial, something he appeared to savor. In 2003, as the US and UK prepared for the invasion of Iraq, Fisk went to the United Nations in New York, where he watched then Secretary of State Colin Powell make an unimpressive case for war.

“There was an almost macabre opening to the play when General Powell arrived at the Security Council, cheek-kissing the delegates and winding his great arms around them,” he wrote. “Jack Straw fairly bounded up for his big American hug.”

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Fisk, who was born in Kent, and studied at Lancaster University, began his career on Fleet Street at the Sunday Express. He went on to work for The Times, where he was based in Northern Ireland, Portugal and the Middle East.

For decades he was based in the Lebanese city of Beirut, and occupied an apartment located on its famed corniche. He lived and worked there as the nation was torn apart in a civil war, and a number of journalists fell victim to kidnappers.

Fisk, who was the recipient of numerous awards, including from Amnesty International and the British Press Awards, wrote several books, most notably Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War and The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. He completed a PhD at Trinity college and had a home in Dalkey in County Dublin.

Robert Fisk at the panel, to the left, with Amberin Zaman, Philip Terzian, Aram Arkun and David Barsamian at the podium

He interviewed Osama bin Laden three times. After the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent US and UK invasion of Iraq, he travelled to the Pakistan-Afghan border, where he was attacked by a group of Afghan refugees, furious about the killing of their countrymen by western forces.

He famously turned the incident into a front-page report, complete with an image of his battered face.

He wrote: “I realized – there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us — of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the War for Civilisation just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them ‘collateral damage.’”

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People: Robert Fisk

Fisk, who took Irish citizenship, was praised by the Irish president, Michael D Higgins.

“I have learned with great sadness of the death of Robert Fisk,” he wrote in a statement.

“With his passing, the world of journalism and informed commentary on the Middle East has lost one of its finest commentators.

“Generations, not only of Irish people but all over the world, relied on him for a critical and informed view of what was taking place in the conflict zones of the world and, even more important, the influences that were perhaps the source of the conflict.”

Robert Fisk with Aram Arkun

Armenian Issues, Armenian Mirror-Spectator Honoree

Fisk long covered the Armenian Genocide. As written in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator in 2017,

“As a self-proclaimed ‘Ottoman Correspondent,’ Fisk has written often and forcefully about the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. In October 2016, Fisk published a moving article titled “A Beautiful Mosque and the Dark Period of the Armenian Genocide,” bringing to light the construction of a mosque in Gaziantep or Antep on the former site of the 19th-century Armenian Holy Mother of God Cathedral.

“Fisk prefers to call the events that befell the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire and later the Republic of Turkey as “The Armenian Holocaust.” In addition to renaming the Genocide, Fisk suggests that Armenians fight denialism following the Jewish tradition and honor the noble Turks who put their own lives and those of their families by saving countless Armenian neighbors and friends. One of his favorite quotes when speaking about this subject is ‘Honour the good Turks. Alas, everyone claps. And does nothing.’

“He has not escaped unscathed during his many years of being in political hotspots. In December 2001, Fisk was in Pakistan to cover the Afghan border situation. During a long car ride between the Pakistani city of Quetta and the border town of Chaman, Fisk faced a crowd of several hundred Afghani refugees. During this face-off, Fisk was attacked with rocks and brutally kicked. Through the kindness of a local, Fisk escaped more serious harm and was brought to a Red Cross convoy where he was treated. In Fisk’s own words, “I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.’”

Fisk received a slew of awards during his life, including the David Watt Prize for an investigation of the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire in 2001, a University of St. Andrew’s honorary degree.

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator awarded him a lifetime achievement award at its 85th anniversary banquet.

He and an esteemed panel, including journalists Amberin Zaman, Philip Terzian and David Barsamian, spoke at a standing-room-only event held on the campus of Wellesley College titled “Journalism and Fake News: The Armenian Genocide and Karabakh.”

Canadian journalist Yung Chang followed Fisk during the event, as he was making a documentary on him, which was later shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.

(The obituary from the Independent was used in this report.)

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