Father of missing BBC man praises the efforts of journalists to secure his release

The father of missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston read out a heartfelt letter addressed to his son at press conference organised by the BBC this morning.

The event marked a month since the Gaza correspondent was apparently kidnapped.

At this morning's press conference Johnston's father Graham (pictured) read a letter he had written to his son telling him about the support of the BBC, journalists and public worldwide plus the Palestinian population and their efforts in campaigning for his release, and made a plea with the so far unidentified captors for his son's immediate release.

He said: "Your fellow local journalists are doing a magnificent job holding demonstrations calling for your early release. There is so much sympathy for your plight around the globe and we are overwhelmed at such support, all of which helps to buoy us up during the past seemingly interminable four weeks."

The press conference with Johnston's family – his mother Margaret, sister Katriona and father Graham – is part of a series of events to further highlight the plight of the missing reporter. The BBC has secured large poster sites across London, which call for Johnston's release. Reporters Without Borders unveiled a banner of Johnston on the plinth of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square at 12.30pm today.

In an unprecedented move, the four major UK broadcasters have produced a special programme looking back at events since Johnston's disappearance. BBC World, BBC News 24 plus Al Jazeera and Sky News will simulcast the programme which also includes contributions from CNN.

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News said that it was "very good news"

that "credible evidence" had emerged as to Johnston's safety. She described Johnston as "an excellent and very brave journalist who worked some of the toughest beats".

Earlier today, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, said that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, had told him he had credible evidence that missing BBC correspondent Alan Johnston is "safe and well". Thompson met with Abbas yesterday to discuss efforts to secure the release of Johnston, a month after the reporter went missing in Gaza City in an apparent abduction.

But as to the whereabouts and safety of Johnston, Boaden said: "There's been massive speculation and rumour and we have been very careful not to be swayed by rumour and speculation not least because we are BBC journalists but because it would not help Alan."

Boaden said that the BBC had already appointed a reporter to cover Gaza but she added: "Clearly in light of this [Johnston's abduction] we would have to review having someone permanently in Gaza. We would not abandon it as an office but we would be likely to have someone who moves between Kabul and Gaza.

Boaden praised the Foreign Commission Office for its "substantial support" since Johnston went missing over four weeks ago and said the BBC would remain "dogged and tenacious" in its campaign for his safe return.

She added: "Above all he is our boy and we want him back".

Photo: Reuters 

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