Political editor shares hisMiddle Eastern experiences

An international journalist stopped by at a Portsmouth college and a university book shop to talk about his experiences in war-torn Libya.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 6:45 am
Rory OKeeffe spoke at Blackwells Bookshop
Rory OKeeffe spoke at Blackwells Bookshop

Former News political editor Rory O’Keeffe gave a presentation to journalism students at Highbury College, then the next day he spoke at Blackwells Bookshop, in Cambridge Road, Portsmouth.

Reading excerpts from his new book, Toss of a coin: voices from a modern crisis, the international political journalist widened the eyes of attendees.

Rory recounted the personal stories from refugees in Libya, then the tables were turned and he became the subject of discussion.

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The Highbury College students put their journalism training into practice to get career advice from Rory who has 15 years worth of experience on the job.

Student Adam Pilon said: ‘He was really engaging and passionate about what he does.’

A chance meeting with a fellow Scouser at an airport bar led to Rory being invited to join Save the Children in a temporary, Tunisian refugee camp.

Just days after Colonel Gaddafi was killed, the Middle East and Africa political commentator crossed borders into Libya to continue his humanitarian work.

Rory’s frustration at sharing with readers’ potentially false promises from politicians was a pushing factor in his decision to pack his bags for Tunisia. He thought at the time: ‘I want to try and do this on my own terms now.’

Rory told the class the most extreme situation he found himself in was stepping out of a petrol station at gunpoint.

The gunman lowered his weapon, discovered Rory was from Liverpool and professed his appreciation of Steven Gerrard. Rory regrettably chose that point to declare to the gunman he was in fact an Everton fan.

When asked how he coped in Libya, Rory said: ‘You just get on with it, if you’re surrounded by people just getting on with their jobs, you get on with yours too.

The next day he told his story to a crowd assembled at Blackwells Bookshop, Cambridge Road.