Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BBC journalist freed after 114 days

After 114 days in captivity, Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent, has been freed. In that time there had been doubts about his well being and at times rumours that he had been killed by his kidnappers. Most recently concerns were heightened when pictures were released showing the journalist wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomb vest. Speaking to the assembled media he said he was “enormously relieved” to be free. He spoke of his having listened to the BBC World Service during his captivity and he thanked many media organisations for keeping his plight in the public domain. He said he was generally well treated by his kidnappers who provided him with bread, cheese and eggs, food he said he had asked for. At one point one of the kidnappers allowed him to see the television when his parents appeared to make an appeal. But besides these gestures, Alan Johnston spoke of intense psychological pressure and deep depression during his ordeal. It was a “weird, dark world,” he said. He said the pressure by Hamas had probably been the pivotal factor in securing his release. He said the nature of his release came suddenly and without warning. “They burst in my room last night and one looked wild eyed and I thought this was bad news”. He said he was then taken into the centre of town and handed over to some more gunmen after a terrifying car ride. But as he caught a glimpse of a photographer he recognised he said he realized it was all over. He said he was moved by the kindness of ordinary Palestinians and added that today was “the most extraordinary day of his life”. His first press conference was covered in its entirety by CNN. The BBC covered most of the proceedings but cut away to news about the conviction of a murderer. Sky News also cut away after 30 minutes to update viewers on the UK terror investigations, now in their 4th day. Al Jazeera covered the entire 42 minute press conference, which was held at the British Consulate in Jerusalem, and followed up which an in depth studio discussion. The BBC also continued with analysis of the news of Alan Johnston’s release. His plight has been successfully resolved. However the world has become an increasingly dangerous one for journalists. At least 155 were killed last year, 64 of them in Iraq alone.

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