UN calls for release of BBC journalist kidnapped three weeks ago in Gaza

UN calls for release of BBC journalist kidnapped three weeks ago in Gaza

The head of the United Nations body mandated to protect press freedom today called for the release of a BBC journalist abducted in the Palestinian Gaza Strip three weeks ago, deploring the proliferation of hostage-taking involving media professionals.

“When a journalist is abducted, the whole of society is taken hostage,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement on the 12 March kidnapping of Alan Johnston, 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. I wish to commend the determination and courage of journalists who continue to do their work despite the growing frequency of such abductions,” he added.

“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.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, 14 foreign journalists have been kidnapped in the Gaza Strip since August 2005, with none of the abductors caught or prosecuted.

In Afghanistan, the journalist Adjmal Nasqhbandi is still held hostage whereas the Italian journalist he was accompanying, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, was released by their captors on 18 March, UNESCO said.

As to Iraq, there is no news on seven journalists and four assistants who were recently kidnapped there. Over 50 journalists and media employees have been abducted in Iraq since 2003, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Mr. Matsuura has repeatedly denounced the murder and harassment of media workers around the world.