Unknown persons kidnapped the BBC’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip. This incident brings to the fore the issue of the kidnapping of foreigners in Gaza and exerts a negative impact on the freedom of speech and access to information.
According to Al Mezan’s field information, at approximately 14.45pm on 12 March 2007, four gunmen in a white Subaru blocked the way of the British journalist Alan Johnston, while he was driving down in Al Wehda Street, and forced him out of his car. No information on his whereabouts has yet been released.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the kidnapping of Johnston, who has been residing in Gaza for almost three years. The Center emphasizes the vital nature of the role of a free press and journalists’ ability to work without fear, for the promotion and protection of human rights in the OPT. Gaza has been a stage for gross violations of the rights of free speech, owing to the Israeli occupation and internal violence. Individuals such as Johnston have continued to work in a highly volatile situation. Further, foreign journalists face serious restrictions on their entry to Gaza. Their role must be appreciated and their safety ensured.
Al Mezan calls upon the PNA to take immediate, effective steps towards securing the quick release of Johnston unharmed. The Center also reiterates its demand that the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General initiate prompt and effective investigations in this, as well as previous, acts of kidnapping, and bring the perpetrators to justice.