Reprieve expresses deep sorrow at the passing of Sir Charles Wheeler

July 4, 2008

Reprieve is saddened to hear that Sir Charles Wheeler, patron of Reprieve and the BBC’s longest-serving foreign correspondent, has died at the age of 85.

Dedicated, compassionate and insightful, Sir Charles is perhaps best known for his tenure in Washington in the 1960s and 1970s, when he covered the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Watergate scandal, but he was also a mainstay of ‘Panorama’ (from the 1950s onwards) and ‘Newsnight’. Very much a ‘reporter’s reporter’, he was accused by some of editorializing the news, but maintained that there was no room for dispassionate commentary on terrible issues of global importance.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said: “It is impossible to overestimate the contributions that Sir Charles made to the journalistic profession. In his reporting, he was constantly aware of the suffering of the world’s underdogs, and of those in need generally. Reprieve was honoured to have the benefit of his wisdom and compassion as a patron, and the entire staff extends its sympathy to his widow, Lady Wheeler, and their two daughters.”

Paul Hamann, Reprieve’s Chairman, said: “Charles was a friend and colleague for over 25 years (a fraction of his long and illustrious career), but like all who worked with him, I learnt very much from him and was always taken by the kindness, generosity and the genuine warmth he gave to everyone on both sides of the camera. Charles was a total one-off. With him the cliché was so true: they just don’t make them like that anymore.”

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Note for editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve currently represents over thirty prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay.