Alastair Leithead

Portugal trainee, freelance journalist & eco-luxe entrepreneur

After many years as a BBC foreign correspondent, Alastair Leithead is now permanently based in Portugal as a tourism entrepreneur and journalist, currently producing a wine/travelogue podcast on the Alentejo region. He writes blogs both on the challenges of his is new off-grid life in the countryside and on Portuguese wines. He and his wife Ana are building a small rural tourism project called Vale das Estrelas in Odemira.

He spent the spent the academic year 2019-20 as a JSK (Knight) Fellow at Stanford University, researching digital storytelling during a sabbatical from the BBC. His last posting was BBC Africa Correspondent, reporting widely across sub-Saharan Africa for their TV, radio and digital outlets.

In 2018 Alastair produced the first Virtual Reality documentary for BBC News, taking viewers on a journey up the Blue Nile through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to cover the story of the dam Ethiopia is building and its regional repercussions. The film won awards including a Rose D’Or. He also produced a VR documentary series on the Congo River.

Alastair has focussed on big theme reporting such as Africa’s population growth and radicalisation and militarisation in the Sahara and specialised in conservation issues, such as the connections between wildlife crime, corruption and state capture. In 2017 he won a Foreign Press Association award for his coverage of the Chibok girls’ release in Nigeria.

Prior to Africa Alastair was the US West Coast Correspondent, based in Los Angeles for four years, covering breaking news and features from across the US as well as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. He travelled from LA to report on the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan, the war in Libya and to cover the super-typhoon in the Philippines for which he was nominated for a 2014 Emmy award.

From February 2009 to May 2011, Alastair was the BBC’s Asia Correspondent, living in Bangkok but reporting across East Asia. He travelled undercover in what was then Burma, reported on the violent standoff on the streets of Thailand, and was first on the scene in some of the small coastal towns worst hit by the Japanese tsunami.

Alastair lived in Afghanistan for two and a half years covering the war. In 2007 he won the Bayeux Television Award for war correspondents, was shortlisted for a BAFTA in 2008 and a Royal Television Society Award in 2007. Alastair lived in Miami in 2005/6, covering the southern States. He weathered Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, worked in post-war Iraq and worked in South Africa from 2001.

Alastair Leithead was brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne where he attended the Royal Grammar School, and received an honours degree in Geography from Manchester University. He began journalism on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and quickly moved into broadcasting with the BBC on radio and regional TV and as a producer in London before becoming a foreign correspondent.