About Clarissa Ward
As of March 2023
Clarissa Ward is CNN’s multi-award winning chief international correspondent based in London.
She has spent nearly two decades reporting from front lines around the world from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen to Ukraine and Georgia during the Russian incursion in 2008.
A recipient of the National Press Club’s most esteemed prize, the Fourth Estate Award, Ward is the author of ‘On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist’ (Penguin Press), a memoir that details her singular career as a conflict reporter and how she has documented the violent remaking of the world from close range.
She is also a host of the limited series podcast from CNN Audio, Tug of War.
In the last year Ward has spent nearly five months in Ukraine covering the ongoing Russian invasion. She reported live from a subway station in Kharkiv as residents scrambled to find shelter as Russia’s assault unfolded. She witnessed residents fleeing Irpin across a destroyed bridge after several days of heavy bombardment. She visited Chernihiv after Russian forces left the city, finding residents reeling from weeks of being cut off from the rest of Ukraine. While shadowing paramedics in Kharkiv, Ward and her team were forced to run for safety after getting caught in active Russian shelling.
Ward reported from Ukraine in the weeks before and after the war entered a second year. She covered US President Joe Biden’s surprise trip to Kyiv and crisscrossed the country to tell the story of this war through the eyes of the Ukrainian fighters, volunteers and leaders who have endured the unthinkable and continue to fight for an hour-long primetime special, The Will to Win: Ukraine at War.
Ward’s extensive coverage of the war in Ukraine contributed to recent prestigious journalism awards for CNN including a duPont-Columbia Award, a Royal Television Society (RTS) Award and the David Kaplan Award from the Overseas Press Club of America.
In 2022 Ward traveled to Somalia to investigate the impact Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s wheat exports had on food access in the East African country. When Pakistan experienced historic flooding, Ward traveled to one of the hardest-hit areas, reporting on the unprecedented scale of the crisis that left nearly a third of the country underwater.
Ward reported from Afghanistan in the weeks leading up to the fall of Kabul in August 2021, staying in the country for several days after the Taliban took control of the capital city. She got exclusive access to an Afghan base in Kandahar days before it was taken by the Taliban and also interviewed the Taliban at a former US military base in Ghazni province after it had been seized.
Her extensive reporting from the streets of Kabul after the Taliban took control showed the chaos and fear that ensued, including chaotic scenes outside the city’s airport as Taliban fighters blocked access to people trying to flee the country. Days before Kabul fell Ward also interviewed a senior ISIS-K commander about the terrorist group’s plans in Afghanistan. After the interview ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the deadly attack outside the Kabul airport.
Ward, senior field producer Brent Swails and photojournalists William Bonnett and Scott McWhinnie were recognized with a George Polk Award for Foreign Television Reporting for the reporting on the fall of Afghanistan.
Nearly two months after the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, Ward and her team were the first foreign journalists permitted to enter the Southeast Asian nation. While there she reported on the widespread military crackdown and confronted Myanmar’s military junta about the violent suppression of protests taking place in the country.
And as India experienced a deadly second wave of coronavirus, Ward traveled across the country to cover the unfolding crisis. Reporting from an understaffed Covid-19 ward in Uttar Pradesh and overwhelmed crematoriums in Delhi and the holy city of Varanasi, Ward was one of three CNN correspondents in India covering the rampant spread of the deadly virus.
Ward was also part of CNN’s coverage of U.S. President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip as president, traveling to Geneva for Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and covering the G7 summit in England, where she interviewed former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In late 2020 Ward investigated the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, uncovering new evidence identifying the Russian security services who trailed Navalny for more than 30 trips over the course of three years. As part of this joint investigation with Bellingcat, Ward interviewed Navalny at an undisclosed location in Germany – even showing him photographs of the agents that tracked him – and confronted a suspected member of the elite toxins team at his home outside Moscow. Ward and CNN were recognized with two 2021 Emmy Awards for their investigation with Bellingcat. Her reporting was featured in the Oscar and BAFTA award-winning CNN Films documentary, NAVALNY.
Ward also investigated Russian trolls operating in the west African nations of Ghana and Nigeria to stoke racial tensions and stir up social unrest in the US. For this months-long investigation she traveled to one of the operation’s headquarters in Ghana, where she interviewed one of the trolls and tracked down the person running the operation, a Ghanaian who lives in Russia. This reporting on ‘Russia’s Secret Influence Campaigns’ was named a finalist of the 2021 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.
She has also contributed to CNN’s breaking news coverage of the war in Ukraine; the Covid-19 pandemic; the death of Queen Elizabeth II; the crisis between the US and Iran in early 2020, tracking the story from the US, Iraq — including the site of an Iranian missile attack — and Ukraine with every major development. When Turkey launched a military operation targeting America’s Kurdish partners in northern Syria in 2019, Ward was on the ground in Syria covering the chaos of civilians fleeing their homes amid military strikes. Her reporting on the Turkish incursion helped earn the network a 2020 Emmy Award in the Outstanding Breaking News Coverage category.
In 2019 Ward investigated Russia’s use of mercenaries in a two-part series for CNN, ‘Putin’s Private Army.’ For this months-long, Emmy Award-winning investigation, Ward secured the first on-camera interview with a former fighter for Wagner – Russia’s most notorious private military contractor. She traveled to the Central African Republic, to look at growing Russian mercenary activity on the continent. After visiting a diamond mine with ties to a Russian oligarch, Ward and her team were followed and intimidated by a car full of Russians. After their reports came out, they were targeted by a Russian media propaganda campaign trying to discredit their reporting.
This followed Ward gaining unprecedented access to Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan for an exclusive report, ’36 Hours with the Taliban.’ Ward and CNN field producer Salma Abdelaziz spent time at a local madrasa, where dozens of children — boys and girls — pored over their Qurans, and a Taliban-run clinic in the village of Pashma Qala.
In 2018 she reported extensively on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, even obtaining exclusive footage that showed a Saudi operative posing as Khashoggi in an attempt to cover up the killing. That report on Khashoggi’s body double was recognized with a Golden Nymph from the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2019 and CNN’s overall coverage of Khashoggi’s murder was recognized with a prestigious 2020 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award.
Ward also fronted ‘Shadow Over Europe,’ a CNN investigation into the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in 2018, traveling to Poland, Germany and France to see how these countries were tackling this rise of anti-Semitic incidents and stereotypes. ‘Shadow Over Europe’ was recognized with a 2019 Edward R. Murrow Award in the News Series category for Television Networks.
She has won multiple awards for her reporting: Two George Foster Peabody Awards; three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards; nine Emmy Awards; a George Polk Award; two Edward R. Murrow Awards for distinguished journalism; honors from the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association; two David Kaplan Awards from the Overseas Press Club and the 2019 Reporter/Correspondent of the Year award from The Gracies.
She was also recognized with the Ted Sorensen Award from Network 20/20 in recognition for “adeptly crafting the first draft of history and providing original insight into the people and events of our time.” In 2016 she received the prestigious Excellence in International Reporting Award from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) for her outstanding war reporting in hotspots like Iraq and Syria.
In early 2016 Ward traveled undercover to rebel-held areas in Syria — where almost no Western journalists had visited in over a year – to report on what life was like there under the Russian and regime bombardment. Less than 24 hours after arriving, Ward witnessed an airstrike on a fruit market that left 11 dead. The entire ‘Undercover in Syria’ series of exclusive, award-winning reports from behind rebel lines can be found here. To date, ‘Undercover in Syria’ has been recognized with a Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award for ‘News Series’ and the Overseas Press Club’s David Kaplan Award.
As one of the last Western reporters to visit rebel-held Aleppo, Ward was asked to address a UN Security Council meeting on the embattled Syrian city in August 2016, stating “there are no winners in Aleppo.”
Ward joined CNN in 2015 from CBS News, where she served as a foreign correspondent for four years and contributed regularly to ’60 Minutes.’
On an undercover assignment to Syria in 2014, she interviewed two Western fighters about why they joined the jihad there. One of the jihadists was a young Somali-American from the Midwest, making Ward the only Western journalist to have interviewed an American jihadist fighter inside Syria since the start of the civil war.
While at CBS Ward interviewed world leaders like U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2013, challenging them both on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown inside Syria.
Before joining CBS Ward spent two years in Moscow and two years in Beijing for ABC News. She covered the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the 2008 global food crisis, where her coverage received an Emmy Award for Business and Financial Reporting.
Prior to ABC News, Ward was based in the Middle East for Fox News Channel, covering the execution of Saddam Hussein and other key stories in the regions in addition to interviewing notable figures like General David Petraeus and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
Ward’s career in journalism started in 2002 as an intern at CNN’s Moscow bureau. She has since been based in Baghdad, Beijing, Beirut, Moscow, New York and London.
Ward speaks fluent French and Italian, conversational Russian, Arabic and Spanish and basic Mandarin. She graduated with distinction from Yale University, and in 2013 received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Middlebury College in Vermont.Follow Clarissa on Twitter: @ClarissaWard.