The death of Robert Fisk, leading Middle East reporter and controversial figure

Robert Fisk, in Douma (Syria), in 2018.

He will forever be the man who interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times. One would have been enough to establish a career as a journalist, but three is as exceptional as it is disturbing. Robert Fisk died Friday October 30 in Dublin at the age of 74.

An icon of journalism in the Middle East, of which he was one of the best connoisseurs and one of the most brilliant storytellers, he was also a controversial figure, as revered by an engaged public as held in suspicion by his colleagues. Robert Fisk liked to present himself as a fearless man, he was not without blame.

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Robert Fisk’s life was marked by wars. He was born on July 12, 1946 in Maidstone, Kent, at the end of the Second World War, from which his country, the United Kingdom, emerged victorious but bloodless. His father, William Fisk, was deeply affected by the First World War, during which he kept his company diary.

After studying political science at Lancaster University, Robert Fisk joined the Sunday Express, which he quickly left following a disagreement with his superiors, for the Times. It covers for this daily the “Events” of Northern Ireland from 1972 to 1975, as correspondent in Belfast.

This Irish experience left a lasting mark on Fisk and probably played an essential role in his pacifist and anti-colonial commitment. The journalist, highly regarded in Ireland, subsequently chose to acquire a house in Dalkey, in the suburbs of Dublin, to write a thesis in 1983 at Trinity College on the neutrality of Ireland during the Second World War, and to take Irish nationality.

In 1975 he published his first book on his years of war reporting in Northern Ireland, The Point of No Return: The Strike which Broke the British in Ulster (“The Point of No Return: The Strike That Shattered the British in Ulster”, untranslated). It is also in Ireland that Robert Fisk was buried Monday, November 2. The President of the Republic of Ireland, the poet Michael D. Higgins, who plays an honorary role, paid him deep tribute.

Narrative Journalism Monument

After covering the “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal in 1974, Fisk moved to Beirut in 1976, where he was the correspondent of Times in the Middle East until 1987. He left the newspaper shortly after the takeover of the Australian magnate Rupert Murdoch to join The Independent, a young “left” and innovative daily.

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