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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Demonstrations for BBC's Johnston
Journalists hold vigil outside Palestinian General Delegation office, London
The NUJ called on members to show support for Mr Johnston
A rally for kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston has been held by the National Union of Journalists in London.

The union demanded that more resources are devoted to secure the release of Mr Johnston, 44, who was abducted by gunmen more than six weeks ago.

Earlier, a rally was held by journalists at the main crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Members of the Foreign Press Association in Israel gathered on both sides of the Erez checkpoint.

The London vigil, backed by the International Federation of Journalists, was held outside the Palestinian General Delegation office.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: "We will not cease until Alan is free to rejoin his friends and family and resume his life as an internationally respected BBC journalist."

Alan is the only foreign correspondent living full time in the Gaza Strip. In doing so for three years he showed his personal commitment and that of the BBC to report the story of Gaza and its people in a fair and balanced way
Simon McGregor-Wood
Foreign Press Association chairman

"All our efforts have been to bring pressure to bear on the authorities, not only to work hard to secure Alan's safety and release but to address the threats to all journalists in the region and to enable them to work free from the threat of kidnap, intimidation and threats."

On Monday Mr Dear joined MPs, community leaders and London Mayor Ken Livingstone in a live appeal on Arab TV channel Al-Hiwar for the correspondent's release.

Pressure

During a rally in the Gaza Strip, journalists, photographers and cameramen chanted "Free, free Alan!".

At the checkpoint, protesters called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya to take action to ensure he is released.

"Alan is the only foreign correspondent living full time in the Gaza Strip," said Foreign Press Association chairman Simon McGregor-Wood.

"In doing so for three years he showed his personal commitment and that of the BBC to report the story of Gaza and its people in a fair and balanced way," he added.

THE EDITORS' BLOG
Editors' blog
A big part of our effort has been to keep the issue in the public eye
Jonathan Baker,
deputy head, BBC Newsgathering

The BBC's deputy head of newsgathering, Jonathan Baker, also on the Israeli side of Erez crossing, said he was making a direct plea to those who are holding Mr Johnston to release him immediately.

"His only offence has been to expose himself to personal danger because of his strong desire to bring the story of Gaza to the outside world," he said.

Since Mr Johnston's abduction there have been widespread protests in the UK, in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Journalists from Gaza, the Middle East and a range of other countries have backed calls from the BBC and other UK media for his release.

High standing

Mr Johnston joined the BBC World Service in 1991 and has spent eight of the last 16 years as a correspondent, including periods in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

Map showing Erez checkpoint

He has lived and worked in Gaza for three years and was the only Western reporter permanently based in the often violent and lawless territory.

BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Franks says the deep frustration among journalists, both locals and outsiders, is not just because of Alan Johnston's high standing, but also because the kidnapping reflects Gaza's descent into lawlessness.

That in turn has meant the Gaza Strip has become almost a no-go area for foreign journalists, our correspondent says.

On Monday Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmad said his office had information that "indicates that Johnston is in good health".

A previously unknown militant group said more than a week ago that it had killed the correspondent, but the BBC and Palestinian officials have said they have been unable to verify the claim.

A BBC News website petition has now registered more than 50,000 names in support of Mr Johnston.


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Middle East journalists call for Alan Johnston's release



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