Johnston: Thanks for 'banging the drum'

Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter who was kidnapped for almost four months last year, has called on journalists to fight for the release of reporters around the world.

Johnston, now working as a producer at the BBC World Service, addressed a packed NUJ ADM floor on Saturday and said it was the job of organisations such as the NUJ, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International to fight the ‘injustice and inhumanity’of those who kidnap journalists for political aims.

‘My friends and colleagues banged a drum for me in a way that caught the imagination far beyond the world of journalism,’he said. ‘As I lay in that room, isolated and often afraid, it is hard to describe how important it was to feel that rising tide of support.”

Johnston said that during the first half of 2007, 40 journalists were taken hostage around the world but only eight were released alive. He urged journalists to continue to fight for the release of their colleagues being held captive.

‘Sometimes our words just won’t reach the man in chains, sometimes our message won’t penetrate the walls of his cell,” he said.

‘But it is always worth sending – it’s always worth trying. Just as the captive must not give up neither must we.

‘And if the prisoner doesn’t hear the message, those who are holding him will. And we say to them: You may do the things you do in dark places, but your injustice and inhumanity do not go unnoticed. The world is watching.”

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