The AEJ UK notes – with many others – the sad death of multi award winning British journalist Ann Leslie.
Winner of 9 British press awards, two lifetime achievement awards, and the 1999 James Cameron award for international reporting, she was made a dame of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for service to journalism and named as one of the most influential journalists of the last 40 years at the launch of the Newspaper Hall of Fame.
For many years, she was a household name through her articles and tv appearances, and an amazing roll call of international scoops as well as interviews with prominent public figures ranging from Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher through Mohammed Ali, Sean Connery and Marlene Dietrich.
Ann died on 25 June 2023 at the age of 82.
She frequently attended AEJ UK meetings and knew a number of its members.
AEJ UK chair William Horsley knew her as a fellow foreign correspondent and later in London, and has this tribute.
From William Horsley, former BBC foreign correspondent and friend of Ann Leslie
Ann Leslie has a very special place in the annals of British journalism and public life. She was not only “one of the most brilliant foreign correspondents of her generation”, as her former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has called her. Not only the winner of countless journalism awards and a Dame. She was authentic, always true to herself, quick-witted, completely fearless, and delightful company. She crashed into my professional life when I was BBC Tokyo correspondent in the 1980s, making her journalist colleagues quickly into friends and picking up “the story” – whatever it was – with keen intelligence and always with disarming modesty.
It was those personal qualities that marked her out, as well as her astounding track record of reporting from war zones and witnessing historic events across the world through a turbulent half- century. As a “daughter of the raj” who won a prestigious scholarship to Oxford, she made her own luck by successfully navigating the entrenched sexism of the British media in those postwar years, and she had no truck with bigotry of any kind.
She said it best herself. In her autobiography, Killing My Own Snakes, she wrote how during her early life in India and Pakistan she survived a riot, experienced a bloody massacre on one of the “killing trains” after Partition, and escaped death from a black krait snake; but she had never thought of becoming a journalist: “I certainly never expected to find myself being mortared, fired on by snipers and knifed by a would-be rapist in the Gulf, or interviewing a war criminal who boasted that the best way of punishing your enemies is to scoop their eyes out with a rusty spoon. Or flirting over coffee with a chortling Gorbachev stranded on a ship in a Maltese storm.”
She was everywhere in the globe, and very often until very recently on TV in debates and interviews, showing by example what the journalism of open-mindedness, courage and integrity is about.
My favourite Ann Leslie anecdote relates to blagging her way into getting a face-to-face interview with George W Bush when he was Governor of Texas and campaigning to be US President in the year 2000. Ann questioned the younger Bush’s grasp of international affairs to his face, saying “Governor, we in Europe think you’re at least two sandwiches short of a picnic”. She was saying he was as thick as two short planks. Instead of taking offence, Dubya chuckled and shook it off, remarking that it was like saying “two ribs short of a barbecue in Texas”. She got away with it.
Ann’s talents and razor-sharp mind got her into trouble-spots and out of harm’s way all her life. She was an icon, but she was also one of a kind.