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John Burns

The New York Times

Recipient of the 2003 Award for Reporting

John F. Burns is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who retired in 2015 after 40 years as a correspondent for The New York Times, during which he reported from 10 foreign bureaus.
Most recently, Mr. Burns was a sports correspondent; the London bureau chief, from 2007 to 2013; the chief of the Baghdad bureau, from 2004 to 2007; and the chief foreign correspondent, starting in April 2003.

Before that, Mr. Burns covered the last six months of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the war to overthrow him from a base in the Al Rashid and Palestine hotels in Baghdad. He had been assigned to Iraq intermittently from the period shortly after the Kuwait invasion in October 1990 through the summer of 2002. After a break from Iraq in the summer of 2003, he returned to Baghdad in the fall of that year.

Until October 2002, Mr. Burns was chief of The Times’s bureaus in Kabul and Islamabad, coordinating coverage and reporting on the war in Afghanistan and related events in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. From September 1998 to September 2001, he was the first Islamic affairs correspondent for the newspaper, covering the rise of militant Islam and the attack on the destroyer Cole in Aden, Yemen, in October 2000.

From 1994 to 1998, he was the newspaper’s bureau chief in New Delhi. He was based in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Belgrade, Serbia, from 1991 to 1994.

From 1987 to 1991, Mr. Burns was The Times’s bureau chief in Toronto. He also served as bureau chief in Beijing from 1984 to 1987. In July 1986, he was incarcerated by the Chinese government for six days on charges of espionage. After an investigation, a trial was averted when the Chinese deported him to Hong Kong. They subsequently apologized to The Times, stating the charges had been false and concocted by “bad elements” in the country’s state security police.

From 1981 to 1984, Ms. Burns was the bureau chief in Moscow, and from 1976 to 1980 he was the bureau chief in Johannesburg, covering the Soweto riots and the explosion of resistance to apartheid. He joined The Times in October 1975 as a member of the metropolitan desk in New York.

Mr. Burns has received two Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting: for his reporting in 1997 on Afghanistan’s Taliban fighters and the harsh version of Islam they imposed in the capital, Kabul, and the surrounding villages, and for his coverage of the strife and destruction in Bosnia in 1993. He and two other Times correspondents shared the 1979 George Polk Award for foreign reporting from Africa, and he was awarded the 1996 George Polk Award for foreign reporting for his Afghanistan coverage.

Before joining The Times, Mr. Burns worked for The Toronto Globe and Mail. From 1971 to 1975 he reported on the life and politics of mainland China from his base in Beijing, and from 1969 to 1971, he covered the office of the Canadian prime minister in Ottawa as chief parliamentary correspondent. From 1967 to 1969, he was a reporter in Toronto, covering crime, education and local politics. During his summers in college, he worked at The Ottawa Citizen and The Ottawa Journal.

Mr. Burns was born in Nottingham, England, on Oct. 4, 1944, as the son of a Royal Air Force officer and a British Army nursing matron. His family moved to Canada in 1962 when his father was assigned to the British diplomatic mission in Ottawa. He was educated at Stowe School, in England, and McGill University in Montreal. He also studied Russian at Harvard University, and Chinese at Cambridge University. From 1998 to 1999, Mr. Burns held a visiting fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, studying Islam. In addition to Russian and Chinese, he speaks French and German.

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