BBC Africa editor stepping down due to post-traumatic stress disorder

The BBC’s Fergal Keane is stepping down from his role as Africa editor due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His diagnosis was the result of “several decades of work in conflict zones around the world”, said the BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro.

He added that Keane had “been dealing privately with the effects of PTSD for several years”.

Keane, who was awarded an OBE for his journalism in 1996, will continue to report for BBC News but in a new role.

Munro told staff that the reporter had been supported “by friends and colleagues in News, as well as receiving professional medical advice,” after his diagnosis.

“However, 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,” he added.

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.

What is PTSD?

  • Being caught up in a traumatic event that is overwhelming, frightening and life-threatening can lead to PTSD
  • The symptoms usually start within a few weeks of the trauma but they can start later
  • After the traumatic event, people can feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry
  • People may have flashbacks and nightmares
  • People may be ‘on guard’ – staying alert all the time
  • Physical symptoms can be aches and pains, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeats, headaches, feelings of panic and fear, depression
  • People may start drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (including painkillers)

Source: Royal College of Psychiatrists

Another BBC correspondent, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, has previously spoken about his own diagnosis of PTSD.

“I’ve suffered from depression and a lot of it has related to things that have cropped up in my working life… I had the symptoms of PTSD,” he told the Radio Times in 2017.