UK

Journalist John Freeman dies at 99

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Media captionIn 1961 John Freeman spoke to Martin Luther King on BBC's Face to Face

The diplomat and journalist John Freeman has died at the age of 99.

In a varied career, Mr Freeman was perhaps best known for his interviews for BBC television series Face to Face.

He was also a decorated soldier, editor of the New Statesman magazine, Labour MP, UK high commissioner to India, Britain's ambassador in Washington and chairman of London Weekend Television.

His interviewees for Face to Face included Martin Luther King, Bertrand Russell and Stirling Moss.

Mr Freeman was MP for Watford from 1945-55, and made his first speech in the House of Commons on August 16, 1945. He had served in World War Two, and Parliamentary records show Major Freeman wore his military uniform.

The war was over - Germany had surrendered as had Japan after the two atomic bombs had been dropped on the country - and he spoke about the aftermath of the conflict.

Ending his speech, he said: "We have before us a battle for the peace, no less arduous and no less momentous than the battle we have lived through in the last six years.

"Today the strategy begins to unfold itself. Today, we go into action. Today may rightly be regarded as 'D-Day' in the Battle of the New Britain."

Mr Freeman interviewed many well-known figures for Face to Face, which ran on the BBC from 1959-62.

Image caption John Freeman interviewed Prof Carl Gustav Jung at the psychiatrist's home in Zurich
Image caption One of his interviewees was film director John Huston
Image caption Mr Freeman interviewed Martin Luther King for Face to Face in 1961
Image caption Bertrand Russell was interviewed for Face to face in 1959

His interview style was direct.

Finishing a Face to face interview with Tony Hancock in 1960, Mr Freeman told the comedian: "I wonder if you really get very much out of your triumphs.

"You've got cars that you don't drive, you've got health which you told me is a bit ropey… you've got money that you can't really spend, you worry about your weight.

"What I want to put to you as a final question is this: You could stop all this tomorrow if you wanted to, you're rich enough to coast along for the rest of your days, now tell me why you go on."

Mr Hancock, who committed suicide in 1968, replied: "Because it absolutely fascinates me, because I love it and because it is my entire life."

Image caption One famous interview was with comedian Tony Hancock

According to a 2013 New Statesman article, Mr Freeman said it was "extremely tiresome" being treated as a celebrity as a result of the Face to Face interviews.

He took the role of editor of the New Statesman in 1961.

The article says he was "no respecter of office", adding that he referred to Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a "little runt".

Mr Freeman became "bored with the New Statesman after just four years as editor", and got the job of high commissioner to India in 1965, the article adds.

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