Wednesday, March 14, 2007

BBC Journalist "Gone Missing" in Gaza

Alan Johnston the BBC correspondent in Gaza has been kidnapped. News of the kidnapping is in every newspaper; the Muslim Council of Britain has even called for his release. Let's hope that he is released quickly and unharmed, and without a forced conversion to Islam.

Nevertheless, one odd thing is that the BBC is refusing to report it as a kidnapping. The BBC article states:

The BBC is continuing to try to locate its Gaza Strip correspondent, Alan Johnston, who has gone missing. ....
The corporation has not commented on Palestinian reports that he had been kidnapped.
These reports have been accepted by every other media outlet in this country. In fact, on the Editors' Blog in the "BBC in the news" section it states:
All papers: Report that the BBC has been unable to contact reporter Alan Johnston in Gaza.
It then provides 5 links, all of which mention that he has been kidnapped.

So, the question is why the BBC are refusing to mention it. Some commenters on the biased-bbc site have suggested that this is because of ongoing negotiations between the BBC and the kidnappers. However, The Independent report:
There has been no contact between the kidnappers and the BBC.
It is difficult to think of a reason why the BBC would not report this as a kidnapping, like everyone else. Do they perhaps know something the rest do not? Are they concerned that admitting that their Gaza correspondent was kidnapped would raise questions about why he was there. After all, Johnston is the last foreign correspondent still living in Gaza. Perhaps it is because the kidnapping may raise questions about the freedom of the press in Gaza?

Perhaps there is a simple explanation, please leave a comment if you have any ideas.

UPDATE: The BBC has produced a new article by Katya Adler (BBC correspondent in Jerusalem). This article still refuses to state that Mr Johnston has been kidnapped. Instead it says:
Renewed attempts are being made to find BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, who has been missing since Monday afternoon and is feared kidnapped.
The BBC has sent a team to Gaza to liaise with Palestinian officials.

That last sentence seems to confirm The Independent's report that the BBC has had no contact with the kidnappers. The report further states:
Palestinian security officials say he was kidnapped from his car by masked gunmen, but the BBC says it cannot independently verify these reports.
Other reports in Gaza say he is healthy and negotiations are under way with the abductors to secure his release.

Even according to these "other reports" he was still kidnapped, so why are the BBC still refusing to say so?