Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alan Johnston is free after 114 days.

What a relief for everyone that the BBC journalist Alan Johnston has been freed after being held captive for 114 days in Gaza. In his first interview he reveals his feelings, the following I wish to highlight...

"I had... the one lucky break in my incarceration, I got hold of a radio that gave me the BBC World Service, and I realised that we weren't just talking about a local campaign in Gaza.

I realised that the Beeb was mobilising the most extraordinary international campaign, drawing in all the major networks and all the bureaus."

On the release...

"Suddenly the car screeches to a halt, they drag me out of the car and sling me towards more gunmen. In Gaza there are always more gunmen when you get out of the car, everywhere you go there's more gunmen and you just think, who are these crazy guys?

And, but then I recognised one photographer and I thought, this looks better. And then round the corner there's my old friend who I'd worked with for three years. And it was over. And it was the most extraordinary moment of my life, as they say in journalism.

It's really hard to sum up quite how good it feels to be standing here instead of lying in that room that I was lying inside just yesterday. It just is unimaginably good to be free. Maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind, for some time, to know how good it is just to be able to do the basic things that freedom allows, not least to get a haircut and to drink what you want, to walk through doors that you want to walk through."

On his family...

"But then, you know, in a rare act of kindness the guard let me come through to his room and watch the telly when my dad was in a press conference on an Arabic channel and, you know, it was my dad at his best in a crisis you know."

I am very relieved that Alan Johnston has eventually been released unharmed. Journalists should be free to report their news reports from anywhere in the world with no restrictions placed upon them. They should be free from danger and respected by everyone in the world because the work they do is professionally independent and is in the public interest.

I am sure that I am not the only person who feared that Alan would not get out of Gaza alive, thankfully he is now a free man which is a basic human right. I think we should all now respect his wishes and "The whole Johnston family is about to go back to the obscurity in which it was extremely happy for about 45 years."
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