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IFJ delivers appeal from 197 European parliamentarians for release of BBC journalist, believed still alive

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 19 April 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ in Gaza Brings Plea from Almost 200 European Law Makers for Release of BBC Hostage Alan Johnston

The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) today is delivering an appeal backed by nearly two hundred European parliamentarians from across the political spectrum for the immediate release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

The appeal, signed by 197 members of the European Parliament, is to be presented later today to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority including the offices of President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Palestinian Legislative Council.

At a meeting this morning with the Head of Security in Gaza, Brigadier Mohamed Al Massri told the IFJ that earlier reports of the execution of Johnston were unfounded. He claimed that the evidence available suggests he remains alive and in secure conditions. They remain unaware of his precise location.

"We welcome this rare display of political unity in Gaza where Palestinians on all sides are calling for an end to all hostage-taking and the release of Alan Johnston" said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The kidnapping of Johnston has come to symbolise the plight of thousands of journalists around the world who face the threat of kidnapping, violence and intimidation on a routine basis."

President Abbas, who is out of the country, sent a special messages to White welcoming the IFJ initiative and the petition from European Parliament members and pledging to reinforce efforts to secure Johnston's release.

Alan Johnston was first abducted over five weeks ago on 12 March. The National Union of Journalists for UK and Ireland and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, both affiliated to the IFJ, are campaigning hard for Johnston's immediate, unconditional and safe return.

The IFJ and all of its members want to see Johnston freed and in the process a new global commitment to end threats to independent journalism.

To read the letter signed by the MEPs, see: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/gazaletter%20190407.pdf

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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