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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
3 April 2007

Director-General calls for release of Alan Johnston, BBC correspondent in Gaza

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, called today for the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist abducted in Gaza on 12 March, and spoke out against the proliferation of hostage-taking involving media professionals.
“It is now three weeks that we have had no news of Alan Johnston, a British journalist who has been living and working in Gaza for several years. In view of this increasingly disturbing situation, I call on the authorities to do their utmost to obtain his release as quickly as possible,” declared the Director-General. He continued, “I wish to commend the determination and courage of journalists who continue to do their work despite the growing frequency of such abductions.”

“When a journalist is abducted, the whole of society is taken hostage,” added Mr Matsuura. “We must all mobilize to put an end to these heinous practices that constitute a serious threat to media professionals and also to freedom of expression. All too many abductions have taken place recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in Gaza. Not all these kidnappings have ended in bloodshed, but they remain intolerable and must not go unpunished.”

Alan Johnston, correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation for over three years, was abducted on 12 March near his office as he was returning from the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. According to Reporters Without Borders, 14 foreign journalists have been kidnapped in the Gaza Strip since August 2005. Not one of the abductors has been caught or prosecuted, says the NGO.

In Afghanistan, the journalist Adjmal Nasqhbandi is still held hostage whereas the the Italian journalist he was accompanying, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, was released by their captors on 18 March. As to Iraq, there is no information about 11 media employees (seven journalists and four assistants) who were recently kidnapped in the country. Reporters Without Borders counts over 50 journalists and media employees abducted there since 2003.

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