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Obituary: Colin Bickler

A tribute to the late Colin Bickler by Professor Michael Bromley
by Ben Sawtell

nullColin Bickler, who was associated with the journalism department of City University London for more than twenty years, died in London, aged 78, on 12 January after a short illness.

As a correspondent, bureau chief and regional manager with Reuters for 28 years serving in Tel Aviv, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Nairobi, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey, before moving back to the corporate relations department in London, Bickler reported on the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1974 Cyprus conflict and inter-communal violence in Malaysia. He was a member of the press entourage which followed Henry Kissinger's 1970s shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. 

He began his career in journalism with The Dominion newspaper in New Zealand, having edited the Victoria University student weekly, Salient, in 1959, a position held by a number of subsequently prominent New Zealanders including at least one prime minister. He initially worked in the New Zealand civil service before becoming a journalist. After The Dominion he joined NZBC UPI before moving to the Eastern desk of Reuters in London in 1965.

On retiring from Reuters, as well as working at City University London from 1992, he acted as a consultant to UNDP on the reorganization of the Bulgarian national news agency, and a keynote speaker on press freedom at the Trinidad and Tobago annual media awards. He was also a UNESCO panellist on press freedom in the Caribbean, conducted seminars for Article 19 and the International Press Institute, and was a member of the Foreign Office's Freedom of Expression advisory panel and Human Rights Consulative Committee, and the Communication Information Committee of the UK National Commission of UNESCO.

He helped found the International News Safety Institute and for the last decade actively promoted risk awareness for journalists. He was lead editor in 2004 of a handbook for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, and a former committee member of the London branch of Reporters Sans Frontières.

As a fellow in international journalism, Bickler influenced the careers of dozens of journalists now practising in many parts of the world who graduated from City University's journalism department. The marked effect he had was measured by the number of alumni who, on contacting the university, would first inquire about his welfare. Sharif Nashashibi, who graduated in 1999 and then co-founded Arab Media Watch, spoke for many when said in 2010, that Bickler 'left the biggest and most lasting impression on me during my time at City, and to this day, whenever I see him I feel like I am in the presence of a mentor'.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.