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Since being shot six times by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia, and returning to work as a wheelchair user, Frank, 44, has become the country’s most recognisable disabled journalist.
A fluent Arabic speaker, he was the BBC’s first full-time Gulf correspondent and, in the wake of the twin tower attacks, became the BBC’s Security Correspondent, reporting for TV and radio on domestic and international security. He was appointed an OBE in 2005 for his services to journalism.
Raised in both the UK and the Netherlands, by parents who were diplomats, he spent his gap year working in a restaurant in Greece before taking a one way ticket to Manila in the Philippines. On his return he successfully gained a Bachelor of Arts in Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Between 1984 and 1990 he served in the Territorial Army. After a nine year career in banking as an investment banker with Saudi International Bank and then Robert Fleming Bank from 1986 until 1995, Gardner left banking and started working in journalism for BBC World.
Three years after joining BBC World as a producer and reporter Gardner became their first full-time Gulf correspondent in 1998. In 2000 he was appointed BBC Middle East correspondent in charge of the bureau in Cairo, but travelled throughout the region. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, Gardner specialised solely in covering stories related to the War on Terror.
On 6 June 2004, while reporting from a suburb of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Gardner was shot six times in an attack by al-Qaeda sympathisers. His colleague Irish cameraman Simon Cumbers was shot dead. Of the bullets which hit Gardner most missed his major organs yet one hit his spinal nerves and he was left partly paralysed in the legs and dependent on a wheelchair.
After 14 operations, seven months in hospital and a long period of rehabilitation he returned to the BBC in mid-2005, using a wheelchair or a frame. Despite his injury, he still occasionally reports from the field but usually comments on top stories from a BBC studio.
In addition to this, he presented Tintin’s Adventure with Frank Gardner for the BBC, in which he travelled through Northern Europe following Tintin on his first ever adventure – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.
He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Law by the University of Nottingham, Staffordshire University, the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia and the Open University. He has also received the McWhirter Award for Bravery, Spain’s El Mundo Prize for International Journalism, the Zayed Medal for Journalism and been voted Person of the Year by the UK Press Gazette. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Gardner’s Sunday Times bestseller Blood and Sand, describing his 25 years of Middle Eastern experiences, was published in 2006. His second book Far Horizons, about unusual journeys to unusual places, was published in May 2009.
Gardner is a keen skier. After his spinal injury and having attended a British Army training course for disabled skiers, he resumed skiing using a bobski (also called a sit-ski). In November 2011 he was elected Honorary President of the Ski Club of Great Britain.
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