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Today's Big Story

Alan Johnston Freed

BBC reporter was a captive for over 90 days.

By Richard Warnica 3 Jul 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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Stories by journalists about journalists are often dismissed as inside baseball--boring to anyone not in the trade. But it would be hard not to be captured by the story of Alan Johnston.

Johnston, who had stints in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan before beginning a spell in Palestine three years ago, spent the last 92 days in the clutches of a radical splinter group in the Gaza Strip.

Abducted on March 12, the 42-year-old reporter became a cause celebre not just for his BBC co-workers but for journalists around the world, especially the West Bank and the Gaza strip."

Palestinian journalists held repeated rallies and marches demanding the release of their British colleague over the months Johnston was missing. In April, many walked off the job in a three-day strike to protest his continued capture.

The most recent rally came just days ago. Just days, in fact, before Johnston was freed.

You can read the unfolding story of Johnston’s release just about anywhere, but the BBC is probably your best bet for up to date coverage and reaction.

Johnston, for his part, took time upon his release to thank his Palestinian colleagues.

"I know how much the Palestinian people were feeling this wasn't right," he said, according to the Independent. "I have to say especially to Palestinian journalists how much they were pressing, pressing for efforts to free me.

And indeed it is worthy of note. Journalists in Palestine struggle daily to report under pressures and conditions most Western journalists would find unimaginable. And they do so without the protection of giant media organizations or powerful governments. That they would take the time out from their own struggles to fight so for a foreign colleague is a timely reminder of what this profession should be about.

The right to collect and tell stories unmolested is a pillar of free society. So kudos to the Palestinian reporters who stood up for that right. And to Johnston himself, a safe journey home and, with any luck, more reports soon  [Tyee]

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