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Sunday, April 15, 2007

National Union of Journalists UK/Ireland urge release of BBC journalist

National Union of Journalists UK/Ireland urge release of BBC journalist
April 15, 2007

The National Union of Journalists has strongly condemned the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston and pledged at its annual conference to do all in the union’s power to help secure his release.

Alan was kidnapped in Gaza 33 days ago. John Williams, Editor of BBC World News, who came to address the NUJ on Saturday (14/4), told a packed hall that as every day passed, concern for his physical and mental wellbeing was growing.

He paid tribute to Alan’s calmness and courage and said that although Alan would be embarrassed at all the media attention he was getting, there could be no finer ambassador for the right to report freely.

He said: “Alan stayed when everyone else left because he believed that the story of Gaza must be told to the outside world.”

Passing on a message of thanks to the NUJ from Alan’s family, John Williams said that the tributes to Alan that meant the most were those from his fellow journalists, especially those in Gaza and Ramallah, and he emphasised that it was the Palestinian people themselves who suffer most from this sort of attack on freedom of expression.

General Secretary Jeremy Dear read out a message from the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) describing the marches, demonstrations and solidarity actions - and even a three-day hunger strike - that the union had held since Alan’s capture.

The PJS also praised the efforts of the NUJ to secure Alan’s release, thanked the union for staying in touch on a daily basis and stressed the importance of all journalists standing together to continue the campaign.

Other BBC colleagues who had worked with Alan paid tribute to his ‘calm, unflappable presence and his authoritative, quiet, understated manner’ and also praised the brave stand that the PJS had taken in defence of Alan.

The conference voted unanimously to keep up the urgent global campaign for Alan’s release, praising the robust campaign of the BBC and expressing concern that the Government and Palestinian security forces have so far failed to carry out their promises to do all they can to free Alan.

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