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Commonwealth Journalists' Association

Members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association have paid tribute to distinguished former BBC journalist and CJA member Andrew Walker, who sadly passed away earlier this month aged 85.

Left to right: John Marshall, Harold Briley, Andrew Walker and Tony Paynting at the Correspondents' Unit at Bush House - courtesy Ian Richardson

Derek Ingram, President Emeritus of the CJA:

Think Andrew Walker and one word immediately springs to mind: integrity.  A second quality is not one that can often be applied to broadcasters – he was as a person self-effacing.

As the leading staff journalist reporting Commonwealth affairs day by day in the BBC World Service he was always hugely supportive of the lively journalists organisations that developed in London in the second half of the 20th Century – first the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), later the Diplomatic and Commonwealth Writers Association (DCWA), and then the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA).

He was for years a member of the CJA’s training committee and helped plan many training programmes for journalists in Commonwealth countries. In the 1970s he published two most readable, practical books on the Commonwealth – the Modern Commonwealth (Longman) and The Commonwealth: a New Look (Permagon) – mainly aimed at the younger generation.

He was always hugely helpful to younger journalists coming on the scene. He was not one of the many who so often argued over the years that the Commonwealth had nothing in common and no wealth. He was, in other words, always a glass half-full person rather than a glass half-empty person. And as a journalist it was usually sensible, constructive Commonwealth words he poured out of the bottle.

Patsy Robertson, Director of the Ramphal Centre:

Andrew Walker belonged to that distinguished body of British journalists  who were entirely supportive of the decolonisation process.  They considered it their duty to understand the problems facing countries as they went through the difficult years of negotiating independence with the various British Secretaries of State who handled this fraught period of transition from Empire to Commonwealth.

Andrew was knowledgeable, thoughtful, kind, courteous, soft-spoken and reliable, in that  one  could share with him unprintable anecdotes about the secret meetings of leaders in the knowledge that he would never betray confidences. He attended every Heads of Government and other Ministerial meetings for two decades, and as the representative of the BBC World Service, when it was widely admired throughout  the world as the premier international broadcasting organisation, he was always a welcome presence at Marlborough House.

The Commonwealth was fortunate that along with Andrew Walker, the Brtiish media took an informed interest in its development.  I recall such distinguished journalists as Reg Steed, Llew Chanter and David Adamson of the Daily Telegraph, John Dickie of the Daily Mail, Patrick Keatley of the Guardian, Michael Leapman and Michael Lake of the Scotsman, John Osman, Christopher Serpell and Richard Kershaw of BBC Radio and TV, John Fisher of Thomson Newspapers, David Williams and Kaye Whiteman of West Africa, JDF Jones and Bridget Bloom of the Financial Times, Roy Lewis of The Times, Andrew Boyd of the Economist, and last but not least the inimitable Seaghan Maynes of Reuters.  There were many others as well, from the Statesman, the Daily Mirror, and the Liverpool Daily Post in Britain, from Canadian papers and news agencies such as Jane Armstrong, as well as many Australian, Nigerian and Indian journalists . I will  go through my archives to find their names and the organisations they represented . They should be recorded and lauded for their work in establishing the Commonwealth’s reputation internationally.

All these journalists believed that the Commonwealth had unique attributes which  could shape the international community and  set standards for civilized behaviour between developed and developing countries.  They attended Prime Ministers Meetings, held in London until 1966 and travelled first  to Lagos, Singapore, Ottawa and Kingston, and in other capitals around the globe.  At that time, the Commonwealth Secretariat  recognised how important these journalists were to its growth and effectiveness and arranged  media receptions so that journalists could have frank conversations with leaders about the issues on the agenda of their biennial meetings.  The establishment of the Diplomatic and Commonwealth Writers Association in 1960 also enabled  Commonwealth visitors to London to meet with and brief this distinguished group of journalists.  These close relations with journalists were the key to the support which the Commonwealth commanded worldwide, during its titanic and successful action to end racism in Southern Africa.

Andrew’s fair and comprehensive reports of Commonwealth activities on the BBC World Service made him a well-respected name from Antigua to Zambia in the Commonwealth.  His retirement from the BBC was a sad occasion and he has been missed by his many Commonwealth admirers.  His death will be mourned by a generation who worked to bring peaceful change to an Empire which had outlived its raison d’etre.