Simon Dring, who has died aged 76, was an intrepid correspondent with Reuters, The Daily Telegraph and later the BBC who covered some 22 wars and revolutions around the world.
For two years from 1964, when he was 19, he covered the Vietnam War for Reuters as their youngest staff correspondent. Moving to The Daily Telegraph, in 1969-70 he reported on the Nigerian Civil War, becoming the first western journalist in a year to visit the front lines in east central Nigeria and highlighting the plight of refugees from the fighting flooding out of Biafra.
May 1970 found him in Phnom Penh reporting the civil war between the forces of the Khmer Rouge and their North Vietnamese and Viet Cong allies against the Cambodian government of Lon Nol, supported to begin with by a brief two-month incursion by more than 80,000 US combat forces and South Vietnamese soldiers.
In contrast to upbeat bulletins coming out of Nixon's White House, on May 17 Dring reported that it was becoming increasingly obvious that "the American and South Vietnamese invasion, though resulting in the capture of large amounts of communist supplies, is forcing the North Vietnamese westwards and drawing Cambodia into a tragic and destructive war she is far from able to cope with."
A few months later Dring was in Vientiane reporting on communist advances in Laos. But his most important scoop took place the following year, in March 1971, when he travelled to Dhaka to cover the looming constitutional crisis in East Pakistan sparked by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's demands for independence.
As the Pakistan army moved in to crush the independence movement, all foreign journalists, confined at gunpoint at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dhaka, were rounded up and deported to Karachi. Dring evaded the round-up by hiding in the hotel lobby and kitchen, and on the rooftop, for more than 32 hours, and he subsequently made an extensive tour of the burning city to give the first eyewitness account of atrocities committed by Pakistani security forces.
On March 30, in a front-page article in The Daily Telegraph headlined "Tanks Crush Revolt in Pakistan", Dring wrote: "The first targets as the tanks rolled into Dacca were the students. Caught completely by surprise, some 200 students were killed in Iqbal Hall … as shells slammed into the building and their rooms were sprayed with machine gunfire."
He reported how the killing spree continued, as teachers were mown down in their residences on the university campus, and policemen in their barracks. Hundreds of houses were set on fire and thousands of residents shot as they tried to flee to safer areas.
In a Hindu-majority area, Dring observed, "the soldiers made the people come out of their houses and shot them in groups. This area, too, was eventually razed." He described how the premises of the Bengali-language daily, the Ittefaq, was attacked and burnt down with nearly 400 people inside the building.
On March 29 he managed to board a plane to Karachi and, though subjected to a thorough search, arrived in Bangkok with his notes intact. He continued to cover the conflict from Bangkok and Calcutta, where he and some other journalists were briefly detained as suspected spies.
Dring's reports won him a UK Reporter of the Year award and made him a hero for many in East Pakistan. After it gained its independence as Bangladesh he was awarded honorary citizenship of the country. In 2012 he was presented with the Bangladeshi Friend of Liberation War award.
Simon John Dring was born on January 11 1945 and grew up in Fakenham, Norfolk. An adventurous spirit from an early age, he was expelled from boarding school in Woodbridge, Suffolk, after being caught midnight swimming in the River Deben, after which he enrolled at King's Lynn Technical College.
In 1962, aged 17, he left home and became one of the first to walk and hitchhike what was to become known as the hippie trail, overland across Europe and the Middle East to India and south-east Asia, selling the shirts his mother had carefully packed for him along the way – a journey he would repeat in 1994 for the BBC series On The Road Again and an accompanying book.
At the end of his journey he got a job as a proofreader and feature writer for the Bangkok World newspaper and in 1964 worked briefly as a freelance reporter in Laos, before moving to Vietnam to cover the war for Reuters.
From the Telegraph, Dring joined the BBC in 1973 and narrowly avoided death the following year when he was reporting the Turkish invasion of Cyprus; the car in which he was leading a convoy of journalists strayed into an unmarked Turkish minefield west of Kyrenia, setting off a mine which killed the BBC TV sound man Edward Stoddart and wounded several other journalists including Dring, though his injuries were happily not too serious.
In 1979 he was in Tehran covering the Islamic revolution when he won the Golden Nymph Award at the international television festival in Monte Carlo (shared with John Simpson) for his coverage of the return from exile of Ayatollah Khomeini.
He continued to work for the BBC and to freelance for various newspapers and magazines into the 1990s, picking up several more awards along the way, including (for Radio 4's The World Tonight) a gold award at the 1995 New York Festival international radio awards for his report on the American invasion of Haiti the previous year.
He won other awards for his reporting from behind the lines with the EPLF guerrilla forces in Eritrea for BBC Television and for a Radio 4 documentary on Turkey's conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
In 1986 Dring was instrumental (with Chris Long and Sir Bob Geldof) in founding Sport Aid and organising the 1988 Race Against Time, the biggest simultaneous mass-participation sporting event ever held, involving more than 20 million people in 120 countries, which raised more than $36 million for famine relief in Africa.
In 1997 Radio 4 broadcast Dancing in Dead Men's Shoes, a series of fascinating reports by Dring's about the aftermath of revolutions.
At the end of the 1990s Dring returned to Bangladesh, where he established Ekushey Television (ETV), the country's first independent television station. ETV rapidly outperformed the state-run Bangladesh Television, attracting audiences of around 70 million and winning a reputation for the quality of its news and entertainment broadcasts.
However, it attracted criticism from fundamentalist lobbies and its licence, issued under the Awami League government of Sheikh Hasina, was challenged by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which took power in 2001 under prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia.
Despite national and international protest, ETV was shut down at the end of 2002 and Dring was given seven days to leave the country. After he was escorted to the airport at gunpoint, he observed drily: "All I can say is that I have now been ejected from this country twice."
Dring continued to work in various countries, mainly as a consultant. In 2014 he returned to Bangladesh as chief broadcast adviser for the launch and management of Jamuna Television.
Latterly he divided his time between Australia, Britain, and Romania, where he died from a heart attack after undergoing surgery for a hernia.
He is survived by his partner Fiona McPherson, an Australian human rights lawyer and director of a British children's charity in Romania, along with their twin daughters and a daughter from an earlier marriage, to Helen.
Simon Dring, born January 11 1945, died July 16 2021
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