Simon Dring, an eminent British foreign correspondent, television producer and presenter, passed away while undergoing treatment at a Romania hospital on Friday at the age of 76.
He is survived by his wife Fiona McPherson, an Australian human rights lawyer, and three daughters, relatives and a host of admirers and well-wishers.
Simon Dring, a “true friend” of Bangladesh, covered the atrocities of Pakistani forces during the great Liberation War of Bangladesh.
He was among about 50 foreign journalists confined to their hotel, the Intercontinental, in Dhaka on Mar 25, 1971.
Information and Broadcasting Minister and Awami League Joint General Secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud expressed profound shock and sorrow at the death of Simon Dring.
In a condolence message, the minister said Dring was the first foreigner journalist to witness the mass killing in 1971. He wrote reports risking his life and informed the world about the most gruesome and merciless acts by Pakistani forces, he added.
Hasan said the contribution of Dring, who was awarded Muktijuddha Maitree Sammanana by Bangladesh government, will ever be remembered.
State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Murad Hassan also mourned his death.
In separate messages, they prayed for eternal peace of the departed soul and conveyed deep sympathy to the bereaved family.
Born on January 11, 1945, Simon John Dring worked for Reuters, The Daily Telegraph of London, and BBC Television, Radio News, and Current Affairs, covering over 30 years major stories and events, including 22 wars and revolutions, around the world, according to Wikipedia.
He was the first foreign journalist who risked his life to present the real picture of Pakistani army’s mass killings and barbarity on unarmed Bangalees to the world community in 1971.
In 2012, the Bangladesh government awarded ‘Muktijuddha Maitree Sammanana’ (Friends of Liberation War Honor) to Dring for his outstanding role during the great Liberation War in 1971.
Just before the launch of the crackdown, the Pakistan army kept all the foreign journalists confined in Hotel Intercontinental (now Ruposhi Bangla) only to forcibly fly them out the next day, reads an article published in the Daily Star in 2012 which referred to a book titled ‘Ekattorer Ghatak O Dalalera’ (Killers and Collaborators ’71) written by Azadur Rahman Chandan.
To make sure no international journalist could gather any information or proof on the genocide they were committing on the innocent people in Dhaka, the army took these journalists from their confinement in the hotel to Dhaka Airport to send them to Karachi.
All but two had to accept the fate. The Telegraph reporter Simon Dring and photojournalist of Associated Press (AP) Michael Laurent went to the hotel’s rooftop, using the passage of its air-conditioning system. The Bangalee staff helped them hide until March 27 when the curfew was lifted.
The then 27-year-old British reporter Simon Dring stayed behind to expose the monstrosity of the Pakistan Army. He risked his life by hiding for over 32 hours at the lobby, kitchen and rooftop of the Hotel Intercontinental.
After the curfew was lifted on March 27 he left the hotel. He roamed around Dhaka on a bakers’ van, hiding from army personnel, collecting information and evidence against the Pakistan military force of arson and mass murder at different areas of the city, including Rajarbagh Police Lines and Dhaka University.
Later, Simon somehow managed to board a flight to West Pakistan and from there, succeeded to travel to Bangkok, preserving the necessary notes he gathered from his perilous and life-threatening assignment.
Having experienced the March 25 and 26 massacres on Dhaka streets surreptitiously, Simon Dring wrote his first report, which is also the first-ever international report on the atrocities as seen by a witness, and submitted it to his office in London. It was published on March 30 under the title ‘Tanks Crush Revolt in Pakistan: 7,000 Slaughtered, Homes Burned’.
Simon Dring began his career as a journalist at the age of 18 when he travelled to the Far East and joined the Bangkok World Newspaper as a feature writer. He later went on to report on the beginning of the Vietnam war, reporting for Reuters and other news organisations.
In his subsequent career, Dring reported from Bangladesh, Biafra, Eritrea and many other conflict areas while working for The Telegraph and the BBC.
In 1997, Dring joined with partners in Bangladesh to develop, license, and build Ekushey Television, the first private, commercial terrestrial and later satellite TV channel in Bangladesh, according to Wikipedia.
As Joint Managing Director of ETV (working with Farhad Mahmud, son of the ETV Chairman, the late A. S. Mahmud), Dring helped create a vision for ETV that was as much about news and education as it was about entertainment.
He established the first dedicated television news operation in the country with a team of more than 50 reporters, producers, and editors.
He also had a wide range of experience in many areas of television broadcasting development and management and designed and produced global television events.
Dring got his first media job in early 1963, at the age of 18, working as a proofreader and feature writer for the Bangkok World newspaper in Thailand.
In 1964, at the age of 19, Dring was a freelance reporter for the London Daily Mail and The New York Times in Laos, before moving to Vietnam at the end of 1964, where he covered the war for two years for Reuters as their youngest staff correspondent at the time.
His journalistic career continued through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s as a staff correspondent for Reuters, The Daily Telegraph, and BBC TV News, as well as a freelance reporter and producer for, among others, The Sunday Times, Newsweek, and BBC Radio News.
During this time, Dring covered major stories and events throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, Angola, Uganda, Eritrea, Cyprus, Israel, Brazil, Croatia, Bosnia, and Georgia.
Over the past few years, Dring continued with his work in television and journalism in a number of countries, including consultancies in Australia and, more recently, in Bangladesh again, for a number of different satellite networks, including chief broadcast advisor for the design, development, launch, and management of Jamuna Television. -BSS