The Catholic archbishop of Dublin and the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland marked World Press Freedom Day yesterday (3 May 2007) by calling for the release of the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was abducted in Gaza City in March this year.
The last word was that Mr Johnston is still alive. The Palestinian authorities, civic groups, human rights organizations, journalists throughout the world, churches, mosques, trade unions and the international community have all been working hard for his release.
Mr Johnston is seen in the region not merely as ‘another Western hostage’ (the majority of captives are Arab) but as a symbol of honest and independent reporting in a situation of conflict.
His commitment to telling the story of Gaza has moved local people to protest his kidnapping. Nothing substantive is known about his captors at the moment.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists have got together to highlight the plight of reporters in perilous situations around the world, not least Zimbabwe. They are honouring the banned Daily News paper with an ‘in exile’ event.
NUJ Press & PR branch chair Gerry Curran says World Press Freedom Day has provided Irish media workers with the opportunity to express solidarity with colleagues who suffer brutal treatment, including kidnapping and murder, against a background of restrictive and unjust media laws.