Ian Birrell


Ian has shown his exceptional talent with a stream of fabulous features from home and abroad that focused on the biggest stories. His eye for an original story is combined with rare story-telling ability, beautiful writing, fearless reporting and sharp analysis backed by the hard slog of research.

The first article from the Mail on Sunday is extraordinary - tracking down and telling the shocking story of a police officer who confessed to involvement in China’s genocide against Muslim minorities. This tale of abuse and torture was unprecedented since it came from a perpetrator, a man wracked with remorse as he speaks out from his hiding place. This chilling article is a reminder of the power of journalism to confront abuse of power - and displays Sunday newspaper reporting at its most compelling.

His second piece, also from the Mail on Sunday, is a highly-personal and profound piece of writing as Ian reflects on the cruelties of conflict after 11 long weeks on the frontline of war in Europe. This remarkable essay is based on taking a short 12-mile journey from Babyn Yar, a memorial to Nazi atrocities that was shelled by Russian forces, to Bucha, the Kyiv suburb that became synonymous with the latest horrors inflicted on Ukraine. This results in an incredibly powerful feature on the evils Ian has witnessed during his reporting, reflecting experiences dating back eight years in the country to Madian revolution and annexation of Crimea. It is a compelling read that raises deep questions about depravity, dictatorship and humankind.

The third article, from UnHerd, is very different: a moving essay based on a new book, which Ian uses to examine the sickening failures of mental health care based on his own investigations into a flawed system. This stunning article, fuelled by sympathy for people with serious mental health concerns, confronts the comforting idea that society has moved on much from the past simply because some people can talk more freely about anxiety. This is a beautiful piece of writing, yet it is also an incredibly powerful and challenging feature informed by his reporting on these unfashionable issues over several years.

These three features display the work of a brilliant freelance who is a very courageous journalist, whether reporting from the frontline of war abroad or challenging conventional wisdoms at home. His features are agenda-setting, brave and challenging, yet always elegantly written, moving and hugely-readable.