Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Praying for Alan Johnston

A week ago one of the BBC's Middle Eastern correspondents, Alan Johnston, was abducted by four masked gunmen in Gaza. No word has been heard from or about him since.

In Parliament yesterday, Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett said it was particularly sad when someone who had been a long-standing friend of the Palestinian people had to suffer in this way.

On Monday his father appealed for information urging anyone holding his son to let him go saying,

"Three years ago Alan told us that he had applied for the post of correspondent in Gaza.
He felt the Palestinian story had to be told. It was a piece of the Middle East jigsaw. It is no way to treat a friend of Palestinians."

The Palestinian Authority's Information Minister, Mustafa Barghouti, added the highly unusual statement,

"We are opposed to the kidnapping of foreign journalists who serve the Palestinian cause."

I am no fan of the BBC. Even if it was a bastion of neutrality, there would still be no reason for its existence. The UK TV market is swamped with channels and diversity of content. It is a nonsense for the taxpayer to be forced to pay for two particular channels.

However, it's political views are very far from being neutral. A good friend of mine who is a senior editor at the BBC (and a card-carrying Labour supporter) estimates that 90% of its editors and journos are Labour voters. Right-wing opinions are "either ignored or ridiculed". With the Conservatives currently polling 50% of the national vote, this is an indefensible position for a supposed neutral national broadcaster.

Much has been made on right wing blogs about the "friend of Palestine" comments from the above sources, in particular his father. This is disappointing. As a father myself, i know i would do or say anything to secure the release of my son if i thought his life in danger.

Now is not the time to condemn or attack Johnston for his political beliefs. Now is the time to pray for his safe release.