The Washington Post
Mr. Johnston’s 100th Day
In Gaza, a BBC journalist in captivity since March 12
ABLEAK MILESTONE passed yesterday: the 100th day of captivity for Alan Johnston, a BBC correspondent who was kidnapped March 12 by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Johnston, a 45-year-old Scotsman, is the only Western reporter based full time in Gaza. He has been heard from just once since his abduction, when his captors, who have threatened repeatedly to kill him, released via Internet an obviously coerced video in which he denounced British and American policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He also said he had been decently treated; that was three weeks ago.
Mr. Johnston’s ordeal has attracted international expressions of concern and sympathy, and his lawless seizure has been deplored by world leaders, lawmakers and journalists groups. In that, at least, he has benefited from representing one of the world’s premier news organizations. Other journalists in violent and unruly corners of the world suffer similar plights in wretched anonymity, particularly in Iraq. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, nearly 50 journalists have been abducted there since 2004, about a third of them Iraqi; at least 11 have been murdered.
Like most of his colleagues who have been harassed, threatened, intimidated, kidnapped, arrested and slain elsewhere, Mr. Johnston knew the risks. Having been posted in Kabul when it was controlled by the Taliban, as well as in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he was familiar with the perils reporters face in places only dimly acquainted with the rule of law and with a serious reporter’s passion for balance, fairness and a nuanced account of events. Millions of people rely on that journalistic passion, and commitment, for their knowledge and understanding of the world. Mr. Johnston’s trial is theirs, too.