You can help free kidnapped BBC journalist

21 April 2007 at 19:43 | 1794 views

By Abayomi Charles Roberts

Alan Johnston’s next birthday is in less than a month, on May 17. Sadly, his family is worried about his life and health because Alan has been missing since March 12 this year. Masked gunmen kidnapped him, reportedly, on his way home from work.

Actually, it was only a temporary home. Alan (photo) is a journalist from Britain who had made Gaza City his second home to enable him to do his work as a reporter. He had been staying there for the past three years and was due to return home when his posting was to have ended - a few weeks after the day he went missing.

Alan Johnston’s employers, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); colleagues at the BBC, journalists in the Middle East; Palestinian politicians, even the new UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the EU, have all expressed their concern and called on Alan’s abductors to release him. However, Alan remains missing. In fact, fears for his life heightened when a Palestinian group claimed to have killed him.

The media community and the rest of the world held their breath in anxiety, fear and frustration, until the President of the Palestinian Authority countered the claims on Thursday, April 19. “Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he (Johnston) is alive,” Mr. Mahmoud Abbas told journalists in Sweden, according to the BBC.

The statement came about the time the Journalism Federation launched a special mission in Gaza to help free Alan Johnston. Aidan White, its head, is to visit Gaza to deliver a letter urging the Palestinian government and the EU to step up efforts to free Johnston. About 200 members of the EU parliament reportedly signed the letter. For his part, the EU Foreign Policy chief, Javier Solana, late last month said EU officials were doing all they can to establish the whereabouts of the missing man.

Alan Johnston’s immediate family, his employers and colleagues have not been alone in efforts to secure his safe return home. More than 30,000 people all over the world have signed a BBC petition calling for the release of Johnston. That was by Saturday, April 14. The BBC has also opened the campaign to people and groups with Internet spaces or sites, to complement its ongoing petition.

Anybody with Internet access can sign the petition. In addition, the BBC has created a system where Internet users with blogs and/or web sites can link up with the BBC to help put more pressure on the abductors to release Johnston.

To help, with your blog or web site, you may go to the Editors’ Blog section on the BBC home page. Then scroll to ‘How to Help,’ by Jon Williams.

Johnston was born in 1962 in Tanzania. He joined the BBC in 1991. He had been working in Gaza since April 2004.