Thursday, 19 April 2007

"Still alive"

The Palestinian President has said that kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston is still alive.

"Yes, I believe he is still alive," President Abbas said in Stockholm. "Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he's alive."

President Abbas said he knew which group was holding Johnston, but refused to give details.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Ransom for Johnston

Today Alan Johnston's kidnappers have demanded £5 million for Johnston's safe release. Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas claims that there is no evidence to suggest that Johnston has been killed.

'‘We don't have any information that can confirm that authenticity of the statement’', Haniya said, adding that the Palestinian authorities are still looking for proofs. '‘We are following this affair. We are examining all avenues to confirm the authenticity of this information but for the moment it is not confirmed.’'

Yesterday Johnston parents appealed publicly once more. Graham and Margaret Johnston issued the statement as a response to the unknown group’s claims. '‘We make a heartfelt appeal to anyone who may have knowledge of Alan's situation and well-being to contact the authorities in Gaza. Our son has lived and worked among the people of Gaza for the last three years to bring their story to the outside world and we ask every one of them to help end this ordeal.'’

The BBC issued the following statement to addressing the claim that Johnston had been killed: "The BBC has still had no independent verification of rumors concerning Alan Johnston. We continue to be highly concerned for his safety and are working closely with the Palestinian and British authorities to seek urgent clarification. Our thoughts are with Alan's family, and we appeal to those who have taken him to release him unharmed."

Standby for further developments, updated as the news comes in.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Johnston. Dead?

Three hours ago the Jerusalem Post reported that a previously unknown Palestinian organisation identified with al-Qaeda has claimed that it has killed missing BBC reporter in the Gaza Strip, Alan Johnston.

The Palestinian Interior Ministry said it was checking the report but raised doubts as to its credibility. According to the ministry, recent information suggests that Johnston, who was kidnapped a month ago, is alive and well.

In the last month there have been protests, petitions, poster campaigns, personal pleas from Johnston's family, demands from the BBC and the chief of the UN urging for the release of the war correspondent.
For the first time in media history, three channels simulcast. The BBC, al-Jazeera, and Sky News all broadcast a special live programme on the dangers facing journalists in Gaza.

The world is calling for his safe return home but this latest news could be the beginning of the end.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Curiosity kidnapped the correspondent?

BBC war reporter Alan Johnston has now been missing for three weeks. Yesterday hundreds of journalists gathered in protest demanding that the 45-year-old be released. His assumed kidnap is the longest period any foreigner has ever been held in Gaza.

In yesterdays Guardian there was an ad published with 300 signatories asking that he be freed. The petitioners include Sir David Frost, BBC director general Mark Thompson, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Jon Snow, Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys and Sir Trevor McDonald. There is also an online petition launched by the BBC at Alan Johnston petition

Monday's Independent ran a news feature stating that Johnston had been begged to take a break after three years in Gaza but he was unable to stop.

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Palestinian journalists protest against Johnston's abduction

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Change your life

Since embarking on this little voyage of discovery I have forsaken the Bronte sisters, Hunter S Thompson, Hemmingway and Orwell in favour of devouring anything any war reporter has ever had to say. Some are frankly dull, others are challenging but there are a few that have really grabbed me and transported me into the hyperreality of the world of war.

I had to immerse myself in it physically, I longed to see it and smell it. I went to the Imperial War museum, the closest I could get to anything like war from this western utopia that is relatively all I have ever known.

I did the ‘trench experience’. Shushing my companion, I closed my eyes in the drafty funereal fa├žade letting the words of Jackie Spinner, author of Tell them I didn't cry wash over me, “The first mortar sailed over our heads, we barely glanced up. It seemed too far away. The second mortar shot over us, we looked up. 'That was close' I said, the words barely out of my mouth before a large crack and a flash of fire exploded over us. We looked at one another for a split second, a collective recognition on each of our faces. We were going to die”. I wanted to feel the cost of truth.

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A piece of the berlin wall that stands outside the Imperial War museum in London

Friday, 16 March 2007

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for your contributions. You are shaping the debate, I will gradually be addressing all the issues you raise.

I know there are more anonymees out there, every time you hit this blog it inspires me to do more.

As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.


Stop the war?

There is a People's Assembly on Tuesday, 2:00 - 8:00pm at Central Hall Westminster in London. If you feel strongly about this, don't just say what you think in the pub go and be counted.

Stop the war