Today is Alan Johnstons' birthday. He is the BBC correspondent in Gaza which was abducted 66 days ago by an unknown group. Today at the UN office in Tehran there was a ceremony on the occasion of his 45th birthday organized by the BBC and UN offices in Tehran. The Tehran national and international press corps was present to wish their colleague a happy birthday and also to demand his immediate release.
Alan Johnston is a hard working journalist and was the last western one to stay and live in Gaza because as Jon Williams, the BBC Foreign Editor stated "he wanted to tell the story of Gaza to the world and not from a studio in London". He said that there can be no benefit for anyone to hold him.
His statement went on to say that we live in an age where there is no shortage of news and that "serious, dispassionate, impartial journalism is as at a premium, that's what Alan Johnston has been doing in Gaza, the eyes and ears for audiences around the globe".
Frances Harrison, the BBC Tehran correspondent who had worked with Alan in London told the audience what a kind person he was and mentioned her horror of where he might be and in what terrible conditions, handcuffed, hungry, dirty and alone on his birthday.
She pleaded, as a human being, as a colleague and as a mother to those who hold Alan to release him on his birthday and make all of those who care for him happy, especially his immediate family, and his bigger family the free press.
Mr Sunil Narula, the director of the UN Information Centre in Tehran, highlighted the UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon's remarks on World Press Freedom Day which was held on 3rd May in New York. He had stated that "attacks on freedom of press are attacks against international law, against humanity, against freedom itself - against everything that the UN stands for" and he added that "a free secure and independent press is among the very foundations of democracy and peace."
Then Frances, saying that everybody must know that she was making a wish for Alan's immediate freedom, blew out the candles and cut the cake.
I am sure you all join me and Payvand to pray for his immediate release too.
Happy Birthday Alan
... Payvand News - 5/17/07 ...
... Payvand News - 5/17/07 ... --