'I'm Not a Journalist Who Runs to the Front Line Every Day for the Sake of It' When Wyre Davies Was Appointed the BBC's Middle East Correspondent Last Year, He Had No Idea That a Wave of Rebellions Would Spread across the Arab World during 2011. Here He Tells MARTIN SHIPTON His Thoughts about What Has Happened - and How He Came Close to Death Himself during the Libyan Civil War

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

'I'm Not a Journalist Who Runs to the Front Line Every Day for the Sake of It' When Wyre Davies Was Appointed the BBC's Middle East Correspondent Last Year, He Had No Idea That a Wave of Rebellions Would Spread across the Arab World during 2011. Here He Tells MARTIN SHIPTON His Thoughts about What Has Happened - and How He Came Close to Death Himself during the Libyan Civil War


* URING his interview for the prized role of BBC Middle East Correspondent, Wyre Davies and those who were assessing him focused on the longstanding crisis involving Israel and the Palestinians.

The thought that he would spend the first half of the year in North Africa "didn't enter my head".

It has, he explained, been a surprise to everyone - even the most experienced of Middle East correspondents.

"The Arab Spring or revolution has been a surprise to everybody, not just me - Jeremy Bowen [the BBC's Cardiff-born Middle East editor] has been utterly surprised by how quickly all this has happened," said Davies.

The experience in North Africa could not be more different to Davies' last role with the BBC as its Wales correspondent.

But his family has settled in Jerusalem, having upped sticks from Cardiff, and Davies is relatively relaxed about the situation in Israel.

Three weeks ago Davies' wife Becky gave birth in Cardiff to their first son, Albert Aneurin. The baby's sisters Eleri, Manon and Catrin have been attending an international school in Jerusalem.

He said: "Ironically in view of all that is happening in the Middle East, Jerusalem is very safe. There was a bus bombing about a kilometre from where we live shortly after Becky and the children came over, but there has been no terrorist activity since. It's nothing like it was when I was there about 10 years ago.

"They will be returning to Cardiff in a year's time so Eleri can do the final year in her Welsh-medium primary school. My stint lasts just shy of another two years - and I'm afraid that whatever may happen in the rest of the region, I have no expectation of a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"The longer time goes on, the less chance there is of a two state solution because of the Jewish settlements in the [occupied] West Bank."

But it is in North Africa where most of Davies' focus has been so far - and where social networking and new communication technology has been hailed as achieving change for the people.

Davies, however, is guarded about the true influence of the web on the Arab Spring.

He explained: "A lot of people in the early days called these the Facebook revolutions, the Twitter revolutions, the internet revolutions.

"I think that's not quite true, although the internet is obviously tremendously important. Cable television is more important - the growth of Arabic channels like Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera and to a lesser extent the BBC and CNN.

"Somebody asked me the other day, what are young people crying out for: it's not democracy, although that is ultimately what they want.

"What they want is a greater voice, they want to be able to use their talents and their skills, and because of the corruption and nepotism they find in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, they weren't able to do that.

"Then it's like a domino. I saw this in Latin America. There was a time when every country in Latin America was a military government.

"In the '80s and '90s all of these countries, one by one, became democracies. And now there isn't really a military dictatorship left in Latin America, although there are some difficult governments. We could see the same in the Middle East."

When speaking to dissidents in Libya, Davies said he had met quite a few young people who had studied in Cardiff before going home to help in the revolution.

"They were very keen that this was an opportunity for young people to express themselves. And there are many things along the way that will get in the way - this concern about the rise in Islamic political parties, although I think that is overstated.

"There's also in Egypt massive issues of poverty and corruption still - the police are very corrupt. But it's amazing how it all started and how it has spread as far east as Bahrain. …

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'I'm Not a Journalist Who Runs to the Front Line Every Day for the Sake of It' When Wyre Davies Was Appointed the BBC's Middle East Correspondent Last Year, He Had No Idea That a Wave of Rebellions Would Spread across the Arab World during 2011. Here He Tells MARTIN SHIPTON His Thoughts about What Has Happened - and How He Came Close to Death Himself during the Libyan Civil War
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