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Frank Gardner

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  • Johnnie

    BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers has been killed and correspondent Frank Gardner injured after gunmen opened fire near the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

    Cumbers, 36, was a freelance journalist and cameraman working for the BBC, the BBC said in a statement.

    Frank Gardner, 42, is the BBC’s security correspondent and a leading expert on AL-Qaeda, the statement said.

    My thoughts are with the families of Simon Cumbers and Frank Gardner tonight. lets hope Frank makes it home safely.


    While thoughts and condolences are with the family of the killed cameraman and we hope for a recovery of the BBC correspondent, the question should be asked why they were in that part of Riyadh.

    Suwaidi is a notorious zone of the capital and to be filming there seems reckless beyond the call of duty.


    The cameraman was from County Meath in Ireland

    (For your info)


    They were in that part of Riyadh because they were doing there job to bring us the news a job in which they have had to scarafice there lives in doing.


    Well, I could not agree less – no story, no matter how big, is worth a life. I hope that Gardner pulls through and I feel dreadful for the cameraman and his wife.

    This is just getting worse and worse – check out the reporters sans frontieres website and also the Rory Peck Trust w w .

    Journalists are now being deliberately targeted. This is new. It raises a whole series of issues for those safely in London who make decisions and for those sent on assignment. I don’t think if it’s that dangerous that any journalist, no matter how willing (and remember they have career and peer pressures to outperform the news ‘opposition’) should be there. Especially as how many people/viewers/readers out there are really and truly interested (and to what extent?) in what they are risking their lives to bring us?




    I too saw that programme. Nic Robertson, Senior Intl Corr. CNN, and some bloke who had written a book on journalism. Essentially, they all agreed that a story was worth losing your life over.

    Here’s a related article from todays mediaguardian:

    A job worth dying for? Of course it is

    Peter Preston

    Sunday June 13, 2004

    The Observer

    Sometimes the deaths are random, accidents in waiting just happening, unfriendly fire. The fact that a journalist dies is just one of those things. But sometimes there’s no such happenstance. Sometimes, as last week in Riyadh, the killing is deliberate, the reporters and cameramen seem specific targets.

    Because poor Simon Cumbers worked for the BBC and because Frank Gardner, still fighting for life in hospital, was the corporation’s high-profile security correspondent, the jolting news of what was done to them in Suweidi suburb goes around the world. But it is, in truth, only one more entry in a stretching catalogue of murderous attacks.

    Take the latest International Press Institute figures. Last year was the worst for journalists’ safety since Bosnia and Sierra Leone brought a brief ballooning of mayhem. Sixty-four journalists and media workers died in the cause of duty. Thirty-four have died in Iraq since that war began. Yet Baghdad isn’t by any means the whole story. Try nine more dead in Colombia and seven more in the Philippines. The blood flows in other hot spots with dismaying regularity.

    Rodney Pinder is director of the new (and dynamic) International News Safety Institute, an organisation formed because of the challenge. ‘The old rules that used to govern conflict, where reporters were largely accepted as impartial observers, have gone by the board,’ he says.

    Forget conflicts we remember, such as Northern Ireland, in which journalist casualties came mercifully few and far between. There were 22 deaths world-wide in January and February alone, a terrible start to an increasingly terrible year. Look at the INSI website record of attacks and kidnappings for last month, shooting piled on shooting almost day by day. Iraq is much, but by no means the whole, of it.

    There is nothing random here. Some terrorists, such as Eta, have always shot at journalists. Now it’s becoming a general fashion.

    What can print or broadcast editors do? They can get behind bodies such as INSI, which offer particular training and expertise. They can see the body armour bought and the survival tactics absorbed. They can make sure the insurance policies are in place. But the moral dilemmas they, and their staff, face, stretch beyond basic awareness.

    Adrian van Klaveren, the BBC’s head of newsgathering, talks of ‘a very fine line of judgment between risks and editorial needs’. In fact, he means a cat’s cradle of sinister strands. Should BBC reporters have armed guards alongside? Perhaps, with due sanction; but there have always been good contrary reasons, too. ‘I don’t want to kill someone for the sake of a story,’ said John Simpson after his own near-death experience.

    Yet how important is that story? Most of the journalists dying in Iraq this year aren’t westerners, but Iraqis working for the local press or hired to go where inter national reporters – threatened with kidnap or assassination – can’t sensibly venture. Are we happy about putting their lives at risk? Are we happy, in turn, about relying on their information at what is essentially second-hand?

    The question goes right to the heart of journalism’s role. Do we (as Jonathan Steele of the Guardian would ask) need to know what’s happening inside the closed city of Fallujah? Do we need eye-witnesses we can trust? Do we need to slide by Putin’s guards and see Chechnya whole? How on earth, as Frank Gardner might add, can we understand the perilous state of Saudi Arabia if our correspondents never risk perils on their own?

    Is it, in sum, important that we, the readers and viewers, have our own sources – indeed, any sources at all, because diplomats based overseas tend to bail out early (and rely on the press to a quite surprising degree)? There’s one question where you have to answer yes. Just as the journalists in Colombia would do in their own quiet, determined way.

    Why are they dying in such numbers? Because when you try to expose corruption, to take on the drug cartels or the rebels or corrupt authority, then bad things happen to you. But you’re fighting for your society, the society you care about and serve. So you go on.

    It is a choice which, with or without armour or bodyguards, we shall have to see made time and again through the coming years. When is a story worth dying for? When there is a real and urgent need to know. When journalism, tired of grubbing round in the quagmires of Big Brotherdom, remembers that entertainment isn’t the only thing that matters – and realises that it’s being targeted for a purpose.



    Exactly! That’s the profession that these people choose and they are well aware of the risks and dangers associated with covering war situations as part of their job. But some people thrive on that sort of thing, just as some people thrive on free-fall parachuting! There are some very brave people around in the news media who cover extremely dangerous situations for a living, let us not forget that when we are enjoying the close at hand war coverage that these days we take for granted on Sky News, BBC, CNN etc……..


    Think a highly competitive industry/big business like the media is doing a bit of self justification here, & massaging their ethical egos in the service of competing with rival news orgs (in that article, written by an editor; nice and safe in London). I don’t agree that you risk your life and that of your crew as a journalist “when there is a pressing need to know” – period. What does that waffle mean anyhow? If you take a risk, it has to be a justifiable one. Of course it’s not a risk free profession, if you do ‘that’ type of reporting. But no machismo, just pure professionalism. And when someone is deliberately targeting journalists, do not make yourself an easy target just to impress your ed in London or get ahead of your rivals.

    Just look at TV compared to 10 years ago. Now it’s all reality TV crap and short attention span news – which is essentially what rolling news is (not knocking it per se; just saying that it can’t by its very nature, get to the heart of why something is happening as it doesn’t lend time to analysis). Therefore you are asking reporters and their crews to risk their lives for a 2 minute clip played out to a largely inattentive audience. Be honest – how many of you watch the international news really attentively and with great interest? Would you have been interested in Frank Gardner’s report or would you have maybe watched it with vague disinterest, waiting to see what or who’s on next? Or if you’re male, doing a bit of ‘channel hopping’ with the remote?!

    I agree it can be up to the individual journalist to decide IF – and how many are senior enough for this? – they are under no career pressure from their bosses to do something, and IF they have freedom of movement to do their jobs properly – something that there just isn’t in Iraq right now. My friend knows a cameraman with one of the main news orgs in the UK. He says no story is worth a life, most emphatically.

    Btw the BBC now DO have armed guards. I suppose Sky teams do too?


    That article may have been written by an editor in London but the contributors to the CNN programme the other evening, Nic Robertson (Senior Intl Correspondent, CNN) and John Simpson (World Affairs Editor, BBC), certainly were not. They regularly take the risks and do so because they believe the story is worth telling. This is the point that they both stressed during the debate.

    Nic Robertson said that when reporting on a particular conflict within a city, for example, the city may look dangerous. But then you get there and it’s a particular suburb or area of that city. Then it’s a praticular street within that area that is dangerous. So on and so forth. It’s basically about how close you can get.

    With regards to the BBC and armed guards. John Simpson, on this programme Saturday evening said that it was pure rumour and was against the idea of armed guards.


    Well I have loads of respect for Nic Robertson. CNN lost members of Michael Holmes’ (I apologise if I have his name wrong) crew to gunmen just south of Baghdad. They can’t, at the time, have assessed that as an unacceptable risk I don’t think. As you know, my favourite reporter DC also took substantial personal risks while reporting Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechyna etc (not to mention having been shot in Croatia)….but I like the way Nic Robertson puts it – assess the danger before moving. What I didn’t like or agree with was the flat out statement that “no story is too dangerous to cover” as that is not true, otherwise – why did Simmo et al (I’m not picking on him btw) stay in their hotels when all hell was breaking loose in Fallujah and sent the brave Arab camera crews in there instead?.. OK answer my own q: because if they had showed up there then, they would have been kidnapped or killed and their security advisors told them not to do it and they obeyed. That’s professional. I know the temptation to get an exclusive can be massive – look at poor Daniel Pearl for example. But I guess you have to remember that you owe it to not just yourself but your family not to do things which are, in the prevailing circumstances, bonkers.

    To risk your life, and also let’s remember of your cameraman too, in circumstances where you know you have a really good chance of being shot, kidnapped etc is nuts. Remember Beirut?? Journalists should bring us the story, not be the story. Sometimes that means waiting for the fire to burn a little slower before going in. I was reacting to the article (OK I do think Simmo’s a bit macho-talkish these days), not to Nic Robertson as I didn’t see the programme.

    I didn’t mean everyone should stay in London doing royal reporting. What a terrifying thought

    Interesting re no armed guards as I’m almost sure I saw it on the Beeb website. I know no journalist of any repute would carry one, but thought their heavies might sometimes be forced to fire back to save everyone’s skins. I know there’s a big debate going on about it as the security contractors moan that the journos’ ethics get in the way of common sense & them doing their job!!


    Quick foot note. As if to back up his words with action Nic Robertson has taken a little trip across to Saudi.


    Yes I saw that. CNN are also talking to lots of people in the Arab media about Iraq and the possibilities (or lack of) for ‘democracy in the country’. Only half hour segments and very doable. Wakey wakey Sky?!


    Just read off media guardian online that Frank Gardner might never walk again, and that really his career as a Correspondant is pretty much over for the moment. I always hoped we would see him back on our screens, its such a shame and cruel fate especially as it was at the peak of his career.


    I do not know if this has yet been reported here but did anyone else happen to see the BBC’s Security Correspondent Frank Gardner’s interview on the BBC news recently regarding his shooting in Saudi Arabia in June? It was aired on the Today programme a few days ago. I have to admit when I first heard it I was pretty shocked – not only by what happened to Frank Gardner and poor Simon Cumbers – but also by the fact that Mr Gardner may not walk again. He told the interviewer John Humphry’s that when he was shot, one of the bullets cut through some of his Spinal nerves and he is currently in a Spinal Injuries Unit suffering from paralysis and expecting another major operation. He is currently in a wheelchair and he said his chances of regaining the ability to fully walk is less than 50 per cent – and he said he is likely to become a wheelchair user. I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr Gardner and I really do hope he recovers quickly and smoothly. He said he wants to come back to the BBC in March to continue his job. I hope he does too because he is without doubt the best reporter bar none to report upon terrorism and the Middle East. I don’t mean to sound cold – I really dont – but when he comes back to the BBC and is using a wheelchair, would he be able to report as he did before – ie going to places like the Middle East etc or would he be more involved in the UK – or even be a presenter from time to time like on the live forums. Anyway, regardless I hope he returns to full health very soon and gets back to the job he clearly loves.

    His interview is here:>

    And here:

    You can’t keep me off air, says shot BBC man

    By Colin Freeman

    A BBC journalist who was paralysed after being shot six times by terrorists in Saudi Arabia has vowed to return to work early next year, declaring: “You can’t keep me off air.”

    In his first interview since the shooting in June, Frank Gardner, the corporation’s security correspondent, said on the BBC’s Today programme that the trauma of being riddled with bullets at point-blank range had affected only his body, not his mind.

    “The weird thing is, being shot didn’t actually hurt,” said Mr Gardner, whose cameraman Simon Cumbers, 36, was killed in the same attack.

    “It was a traumatic experience, but when I lay there ? I didn’t know it at the time, but I had five bullets in me ? I was wide awake and conscious and thinking, ‘Crikey, I’ve taken a lot of hits here, but I’m still alive, so I’ve got to stay alive for the sake of my family.’ So I willed myself to stay on.

    “Fortunately they didn’t get to my brain; that remained intact. They didn’t get to my head, thank God, I’ve had no flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder or waking up sweating in the night ? I’ve had none of that. I’ve been very lucky.”

    Mr Gardner, a fluent Arabic speaker and an expert on al-Qa’eda, is currently confined to a wheelchair and is receiving treatment at a special spinal injuries unit.

    He is learning to walk again through the use of special rigid leg casts, although his chances of being fully mobile are less than 50 per cent.

    He said that he could remember every second of the attack, which took place as he and Mr Cumbers attempted to film the Riyadh house of an al-Qa’eda supporter who had been shot by Saudi security forces.

    “I saw in the faces of the gunmen absolute hatred; they had pressed the button of violence and nothing I tried to say to them in Arabic was going to dissuade them,” Mr Gardner said.

    “As far as they were concerned I was a heathen, a Western infidel who had come into their area and this was an opportunity to execute a Westerner. It was quite terrifying, as you can imagine.

    “These people were hard-core militants, I don’t think it would be fair to say they were paid-up members of al-Qaeda, but they were certainly sympathisers. These were people of the same mentality as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s people in Iraq.”

    After the gunmen drove off, Mr Gardner began crying out desperately for help, already aware that his legs seemed paralysed. To his dismay, locals in the western Suweidi district ? reputed to harbour supporters of Osama bin Laden ? appeared either unwilling or simply scared to be seen helping a Westerner.

    Television footage of him lying injured in a pool of blood was later broadcast in Britain, highlighted vividly the agonising delays that he had to face before help arrived.

    “It was a long time before anyone came and when they did they weren’t any help at all. The local people ? very uncharacteristically for Muslims, who are normally fantastically good at helping people in trouble ? stood around and just discussed me.

    “Eventually the crowd built up, and the police turned up, no ambulance, and they bundled me in a police car and took me off on an agonising journey to a pretty ropey hospital. By the time they got me to the operating theatre I was screaming for painkillers, which they gave me, then I went under the knife.”

    Mr Gardner said that he believed that if he had not managed to get an SOS message to the British Embassy, he was sure he would have died at the hands of inexperienced surgeons.

    “They sent a very highly-qualified team of specialists from the King Faisal Hospital to rescue me, essentially, in this hospital and they said, ‘Right, stop what you’re doing, we’re taking over.’ I think if they hadn’t come I would’ve been dead about an hour later.”

    Ironically, said Mr Gardner, Arab contacts later told him that his would-be assassins regretted shooting him.

    “I am one of the few people who have tried to bother to explain what al-Qa’eda is about, and now they have taken me off the air for several months,” he said.

    “Initially their supporters thought it was great that they had hit the BBC because they got lots of publicity, but once they found out it was me they realised it was a bit of an own goal.”

    He admitted, though, that he had made a mistake by spending too long in the area they were filming in.

    “We should have been there for five or 10 minutes; we were there for 30. I think somebody spotted us out of a window, phoned the militants and said, ‘Hey, there are a couple of infidels down there filming. If you’re quick, you’ll get them’.

    “They mounted a very professional operation. They cornered us with two cars, they hemmed us in, there was no way out. It was fortunate for them we came into the spider’s lair, as it were, and we stayed too long.”

    Saudi officials believe that the gunmen may have been among those killed or captured during police operations later in June, during which they claim to have found a car used in the assassination attempt.

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