15 May 2007
BBC Correspondent in Gaza Alan Johnston has been detained for over two months. Recently, a group using a Palestinian
banner claimed to be holding him in return for release of some prisoners in the United Kingdom.
On 3 May, the International Day for Free Press, a number of officials, reporters and civic society leaders joined
in demanding immediate freedom for our kidnapped colleague. The Deputy U.N. Secretary General, U.K. Ambassador and
many reporters surrounded BBC's Laura Trevelyan as she introduced the event. It was not a mere occasional ceremony.
It was a declaration of support for unintimidated reporting.
Journalists are not government officials. They cover events professionally to the best of their ability. All of us
are human and when it comes to news reporting, someone is bound to be upset. But that is not why some thugs picked up
Alan Johnston. If their concern was really the Palestinian cause their action misfired. The BBC correspondent was one
of the very few credible media links for Gaza with the outside world. Holding him did not only deprive the Palestinian
people of better international understanding but it solicited adverse reaction by millions who felt that Johnston was
the wrong target.
The more time passes, the more the risk of a miscalculation, the more danger to the detained life. It is
therefore crucial to keep the pressure on and insist on the immediate release of Alan Johnston; not only for his
own life, his family, the BBC and free press. But also for the cause of the Palestinian people.