Sunday, June 17, 2007

Free Alan Johnston, BBC Reporter!

Posts on this blog often take a humorous view at the silly goings-on of celebrities in crisis, but this time there's a totally serious issue I want to address... literally, a matter of life and death.

Alan Johnston is a BBC reporter from Scotland. Nothing remarkable about that, except for his "beat" -- the Gaza strip, which is the Middle East, in Palestinian territory. Johnston is the only full-time reporter in Gaza, or rather he was, until he was kidnapped more than three months ago. A shadowy group has said it is holding him, demanding the release of a number of prisoners (including at least one held in Britain) as conditions for Johnston's safe return.

The Hamas authorities who recently took over Gaza had promised they will try to obtain the release of Johnston. It hasn't happened yet, but this is the most hopeful sign in this kidnapping episode since the kidnappers released a video of Johnston, which showed that he was still alive and apparently being treated well.

Regular readers of this blog (yes, I know there must be some!) may have noticed the button in the right column with Johnston's photo. This is a campaign the BBC is conducting to help raise awareness of the reporter's plight and put pressure on those holding him. Click on the button (or here) and you'll find out how to put it on your own blog or Web site, to help spread the word. There's also a petition calling for Johnston's release and a place where you can add your own message of support.

The last few years have been some of the deadliest of all time for reporters working in war zones and other conflict areas. In the case of Alan Johnston, the good news is that he is still alive and that pressure is being brought to bear to get him freed. I encourage everyone to add their efforts toward this goal. Thanks!

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