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Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Thursday, 5 July 2007 06:47 UK

BBC's Johnston wins Amnesty award

Alan Johnston (right)
Alan Johnston (right) was freed in the early hours of Wednesday

BBC reporter Alan Johnston has been awarded a prize by human rights group Amnesty International, hours after he was freed by kidnappers in Gaza.

The reporter's captors handed him to Hamas officials on Wednesday morning, nearly four months after snatching him from the streets of Gaza City.

Mr Johnston said it was fantastic to be free after an "appalling" ordeal.

Amnesty praised the BBC correspondent for his radio reports from Gaza, where he has spent the last three years.

Amnesty media award winners
Radio - Alan Johnston (BBC)
Nations and Regions - Lucy Adams (The Herald magazine)
National newspapers - Johann Hari (The Independent)
Periodicals - Jonathan Watts (Guardian Weekend magazine)
Photojournalism - Andrew Testa (Foto 8 magazine)
TV documentary - Paul Hamann, Monica Garnsey and Lucy Hetherington (BBC/Wild Pictures)
TV news - Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, Bessie Du and Al Go (BBC)
Amnesty International Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat - Dina Meza (Revistazo.com Honduras)
Gaby Rado Memorial Award - Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (The Guardian)

Amnesty International's UK director said the judges had been impressed by Mr Johnston's "commitment to telling ordinary peoples' stories".

Kate Allen said the judges had been "determined not to allow Alan's kidnapping to sway them, but there was a firm consensus when it came to choosing him as the winner".

Accepting the award on his son's behalf, Graham Johnston said Alan would be "highly honoured" to receive it.

"This morning my son was released from captivity and tonight, he gets this award," he said, remarking that it had been "quite a day".

An award was also given to the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes for a report on organ transplants in China.

The award was one of nine handed out at a ceremony in central London to honour journalists who had brought human rights abuses to light through their reporting.

I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room
Alan Johnston

Speaking after having left Gaza for Jerusalem on Wednesday, Mr Johnston said it was "just unimaginably good to be free".

He said his ordeal felt like being "buried alive", and was "sometimes quite terrifying".

The reporter said he had not been tortured by the Army of Islam group which seized him on 12 March.

He said he found the experience frightening "because I didn't know how it was going to end," but said he never considered escape as a real possibility.

Rallies worldwide had called for Mr Johnston's release. An online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.



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Graham Johnston accepts the award on his son's behalf



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