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Journalist Fergal Keane to 'step back' as BBC's Africa editor, due to PTSD

The BBC has announced to staff that Cork's Fergal Keane is to step back from his role as BBC News Africa Editor, due to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Paying tribute to his "huge insight, experience and thoughtfulness" in the role, the BBC's head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro said in a statement circulated to his colleagues that Mr Keane's decision to step back was personal, after several years of dealing with the effects of PTSD as a result of several decades working in the world's conflict zones.

"He now feels he needs to change his role in order to further assist his recovery. It's both brave and welcome that he is ready to be open about PTSD," Mr Munro said in a statement circulated to colleagues.

Mr Keane will continue to work with the BBC, both in news and current affairs, and more widely across the organisation.

This time last year, Fergal Keane was named recipient of the Hall of Fame award at the Cork Person of the Year awards. He was praised by event organiser Manus O'Callaghan for his coverage of war zones around the world.

“In a year when Time magazine’s own Person of the Year was the “War on Truth”, where they honoured journalists who were killed, persecuted and jailed, it is fitting that we should honour our own distinguished brave Fergal Keane too,” Mr O'Callaghan said.

The son of acclaimed actor, the late Eamonn Keane and nephew of playwright John B Keane, Fergal was accompanied to the awards with members of his family including his mother, Maura Hassett.

Fergal said it felt “great” to be honoured in Cork, especially as he went to school at Cork Presentation Brothers College and the city meant so much to him.

He said whenever he was on assignment, be it in Baghdad, Beruit or Kinshasa, he was always thinking of Cork.

Letter to Daniel

Keane joined the BBC in 1989 as the corporation's Northern Ireland correspondent, and later covered South Africa and Asia for the corporation before being appointed Africa editor.

He won an Amnesty television prize in 1994 for his investigation of the Rwandan genocide.

In a letter to his newborn son Daniel in 2015, Mr Keane spoke movingly of his work, in a piece that the BBC described as " a radio classic (that) produced one of the most phenomenal responses from listeners in the programme’s history". You can listen to that letter here.