Obituary: Myles Tierney

MYLES TIERNEY was part of that unique breed - the news agency journalist in Africa - who take all the risks for none of the fame.

Every British television viewer has seen pictures produced by Tierney for Associated Press Television News - from Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea and other troublespots in Africa - and not known it. As with all agency material, his was "pulled together" in British newsrooms and packaged with a voice-over by a journalist sitting safely in a studio.

Tierney was 34 and on his latest anonymous mission when he was killed on Sunday in Sierra Leone. He and two colleagues - Ian Stewart, who is in critical condition in a London hospital, and David Guttenfelder, both also of AP - were shot at a checkpoint in Freetown.

They were travelling in apparently relatively safe conditions, with a Sierra Leone information ministry convoy aiming to show them what a good job the Nigerian-led Ecomog forces were doing against the rebels. Tierney was sitting in the back seat when a jumpy checkpoint guard emptied his machine gun into the journalists' car, killing him instantly and lodging a bullet in Stewart's neck.

Tierney was always in the worst travel spots because, as a colleague said yesterday, he just "had to go". He was energetic and determined: "AP will have to hire 15 people to replace him", said a cameraman. He was also a true colleague, knowing exactly where professional rivalry ended and solidarity began.

Tierney joined AP as a freelance producer in 1996 after several years of working for the German network, ZDF, in Germany. AP sent him to New York to set up a television bureau but he preferred Africa - which he first experienced during the Burundi crisis in 1996 - and moved to Nairobi in 1997.

We met last June in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, where we were both devising plans for getting into Guinea-Bissau, whose border had been sealed to stop a flood of refugees. The roads were blocked and the mangroves mined, so the only way was by water.

Tierney, with the cameraman Khaled Kazziha, hired a local fisherman to take them and their equipment out to sea and back into Guinea-Bissau. Knowing that, as a newspaper journalist, I only had the means to hire a canoe, not a trawler, Tierney included me in his plan. In the event, I did not go with them - judging them to be too conspicuous with their television equipment - and opted for the personal canoe. They got in (and out again) and I did not. Throughout, Tierney was generous with his knowledge and experience.

Colleagues and friends in Nairobi found it hard to define Myles Tierney. "Some people have said he had it coming because he was so driven, said Jane Standley, BBC Africa correspondent. "That is grossly unfair because we all benefited from the information he managed to get."

"He saved my life at least three times that I know of and there were probably many other times when he just did not think it important to tell me what he had done for my safety," said Alistair Lyne, a South African cameraman who worked with Tierney throughout central Africa in 1996 and 1997.

Claude Collart, a senior producer at APTN in London, said: "He spoke fluent French and German. We brought him over to Germany to prepare the election coverage there last year. It was a comfortable job and Guinea- Bissau happened in the middle of it. He said, `Sorry, I have to go.' That is how I remember him, always needing to tell the story."

Myles Tierney, journalist: born New York 25 November 1964; died Freetown, Sierra Leone 10 January 1999.

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