Alan Johnston “it is just unimaginably good to be free”

By Amin George Forji 


        Working on the frontline is always a dangerous path for journalist. At the same time, it what distinguish many from their fellow peers. Such is the case with the veteran BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, who since 1991 has covered crises in some of the most difficult places, notably Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. Whether by accident or by chance, the latter destination (Gaza Strip) will for ever be a defining moment for the rest of his life. The 45-years old reporter, who was abducted on the 12th of March by a hitherto unknown group in Gaza called the Army of Islam, regained his freedom on Wednesday, July 04, 2007 after 114 days in captivity. The Palestinian militant group, Hamas played a key role in the release.


In his first statements upon his release, Mr. Johnston surprisingly speaking in a rather very composed manner described his ordeal as terrifying and equivalent to being “buried alive”. A dream come true, he summed up his newfound liberty in the following words: “it is just unimaginably good to be free”.

“It was like being buried alive and removed from the world, in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable. It’s been basically three months since I saw the sun…. The psychological pressure of days of solitary environment and being with people who are talking of killing you, it is hard to keep your mind in the right place…”  Johnston told reporters.


He also told how one of the captors once described him as a prisoner caught up in the middle of the war between Muslims and Non-Muslims.

“I guess I’m a non-Muslim but I’m really not at war with anybody.”  He lamented.


Having lived in Gaza for three years, Johnston may have felt a certain degree of security. But as events turned out for him,  his longevity in the danger zone only translated into his increased insecurity. Alan Johnston was definitely a popular face not only in the Gaza Strip, but the world-over. It is obvious that the so-called Army of Islam would have wanted to keep him for as long as it could to increase its fame.


Johnston was not unaware of this fact. His abductors had been so confident and comfortable in whatever they were up to, until when Hamas took over. Hamas may have received worldwide condemnation for it’s assault on Fatah. But there is one thing they definitely wanted to make right; that is secure the release of Alan Johnston.



“I thought there was a chance that they might really kill me that they might not let Hamas get what they came for. My abductors seemed very comfortable and secure in their operation until… it became clear that Hamas would be in control.” Johnston told the BBC.


Without journalists of Mr. Johnston’s caliber, many corners of the world would simply be forgotten. But right now, he is too frightened to continue on the same platform he traditionally reports on-the frontline. He revealed that he will prefer to go into obscurity and avoid trouble for the future.

But whether Johnston gets back to business as usual or not, it is my wish that no corner of the world be left uncovered.


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