Statements about release of Alan Johnston, BBC Gaza Correspondent
The BBC issued the following statement at 3am UK time today, Wednesday 4 July 2007, following the release of Alan Johnston, BBC Gaza Correspondent.
"We are delighted and extremely relieved that our friend and colleague, Alan Johnston, has been released.
"This is wonderful news for his family, friends and colleagues - and everyone around the world who has shown their support for him over the past 114 days.
"We thank all of those who worked tirelessly - here and in the wider Middle East - to secure his freedom.
"We will be issuing further information in due course and in the meanwhile, would ask that people respect his family's privacy to allow them time to recover from this ordeal."
At 3.45am the BBC issued the following statement on behalf of Alan's parents, Graham and Margaret Johnston, and his sister Katriona:
"A short time ago, we received the news we've waited 114 days for – that Alan is free and is safe – and we are overjoyed.
"The last 114 days have been a dreadful time for us – but particularly for Alan. Through it all, we never lost hope. Alan had always told us of the friends he'd made in Gaza. We knew, in the end, they would be there for him.
"We've always known Alan was special. But the last 14 weeks have shown us how special he is to others – to his friends in Gaza, to his colleagues at the BBC, and to the listeners and viewers who've written in their thousands. Their support has buoyed us up through the darkest days. We've drawn our strength from them.
"We want to thank all those who've worked so hard to secure Alan's release – the people in Gaza, those in the wider Middle East region, as well as the Foreign Office and the BBC."
BBC News 24 interview with Alan Johnston
Alan Johnston was interviewed live on BBC News 24 at 3am UK time.
The following is a transcript of the interview –
please note that BBC News 24 must be credited if any part of this interview is used.
AJ: It's difficult to quite know where to begin. At this second I'm at the home of the Hamas Prime Minister and. and. yes, I was released a couple of hours ago and it's just the most fantastic thing to be free. It was an appalling experience as you can imagine, 16 weeks kidnapped, sometimes occasionally quite terrifying and frightening. I didn't know where it was going to end. It became almost hard to imagine normal life again and I literally dreamed many many times of being free and I always woke up back in that room. Now it really is over and it's indescribably good to be out, and I'm hugely grateful to all the people, an amazing number of people who have worked on the Palestinian side, the British Government, the BBC from top to bottom and the huge amount of support from BBC listeners and viewers. I had a radio almost throughout and was able to follow all the extraordinary level of support and interest in my case and that was a huge psychological boost and I am immensely grateful.
N24: What about your family? I must ask about them.
AJ: It's been incredibly hectic, but I did manage to speak to my dad very soon after I was released. All through it they were my major concern. I was so, so sorry that my activities should have brought all this trouble to their peaceful lives. They live on the west coast of Scotland and they have been through an awful lot and it's just so good, the thought that I'll be with them soon.
N24: There has been an online petition. You've spoken to your boss, Simon Wilson, the Middle East BBC bureau chief.
AJ: I have indeed. I spoke to him very soon after I was released. And that petition that I heard the number was rising every week was really extraordinary. Messages were read as well. Amazing really to be lying in solidarity confinement in week 13, 14, whatever and hearing people from Nigeria or Malaysia or sometimes friends from London or colleagues sending messages of support. was extraordinarily fortunate in that way. It's almost unheard of for a kidnap victim to have that kind of support. I thought if I could get through with a degree of support. I think I have to go.
I feel. I think I'm OK. It was an extraordinary level of stress and psychological pressure for a long, long time and obviously difficult to keep your mind in the right place. It's a constant battle, but I feel I probably got through it as well as I could. I probably won't know for a while, but I feel as well as I could I think.
N24: What are the plans for you now?
AJ: At this moment I'm sitting beside the Hamas leader in his home, and I've really got to go. Phone again on Ismail Haniyeh's number if you need to.
BBC News 24 interview with Helen Boaden
The following are extracts from an interview given live on BBC News 24 at 3.32am UK time by Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News.
Please note that BBC News 24 must be credited if any part of this interview is used.
"It's a fantastic moment. absolutely fantastic. We are overjoyed and incredibly grateful to all the people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes in London, Jerusalem, Gaza, across the Middle East."
"The phone went about an hour ago. It was Jon Williams saying 'I've got good news. Alan's free'."
"You have to keep reminding everyone of Alan's situation and also to demonstrate solidarity to him and his parents, who have been remarkable throughout this. They have been extraordinarily courageous and resilient throughout all of this. It's an incredibly anguishing thing to go through... I spoke to them a few moments ago. his father Graham said 'it feels like a great cloud has been lifted from me'. They're delighted. overjoyed. And to actually be able to speak to Alan. was just the best thing that could have happened to them."
"It's not quite clear to us [what's going on]. I would imagine that the Hamas people will be talking to the British consulate about what happens next and how he comes out of Gaza, because getting out of Gaza isn't the easiest thing in the world. Then it will obviously be a question of what he wants to do at that point and what we can offer him. We take a lot of advice from the police who have experience in hostage taking and psychologists who also know the impact. you can't be prescriptive about it.what the impact will be on Alan. He's a very grown up highly sophisticated, brave man."
"We knew there was a momentum; we hoped it was a momentum for the good. Alan is deeply loved by the ordinary Palestinians, many of whom felt terribly ashamed that this had happened to him. He's an incredibly impartial journalist. but he chose to live there and report from a very difficult place. He enjoys the more challenging of our assignments."
Statement from BBC Chairman
A statement from Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Chairman, was issued on behalf of the BBC Trust at 6.20am UK time.
"I am delighted and relieved to hear that Alan Johnston has, at last, been released and commend the remarkable courage he has shown during his 114 days in captivity.
"Those of us who value independent and accurate reporting from around the world depend on brave journalists like Alan Johnston facing risks on our behalf.
"I join the rest of the BBC in sending my warmest wishes to Alan and his family."
Email to BBC staff from BBC Director-General
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson issued the following email to BBC staff this morning:
"After 114 days, the wait is over.
Alan was released in the early hours of this morning
handed over by his captors, the Army of Islam, to Hamas.
"I can't tell you how happy I was to get the phone call to say that Alan had been released. He is now on his way home and his parents are simply overjoyed. His many friends and colleagues across the BBC are thankful for his safe release and to see him looking so fit and well, after what he has described as an 'appalling' experience spent mostly in solitary confinement.
"I spoke with Alan at length this morning and he asked me to pass on his thanks to everyone at the BBC for your amazing support throughout the past four months. The visible support of all of his colleagues, which he heard about from time to time from the World Service and TV, really helped him through and buoyed his spirits. He is immensely grateful to you all for everything you've done to keep his plight in the public arena and to secure his safe release.
"BBC News has been flooded with messages from the public who were touched by Alan's plight and are as relieved as all of us here to see Alan alive and well. Since his release, Alan has conducted a series of media interviews in his usual calm and composed way. I said in my note yesterday that the BBC depends on people like Alan
on their courage and integrity and conviction. Alan has displayed all of these qualities in his reporting and I know these same qualities will help him through the difficult days he will now face as he re-adjusts to normal life.
"How fitting it is that Alan should be released on the same day his parents were due to receive an award on his behalf from Amnesty International. Alan's parents have described the support of his BBC friends and colleagues as 'absolutely incredible' and it really has been.
"Thank you to everyone who showed their support, who never stopped believing, and who worked tirelessly to secure his release.
Alan is coming home.
Latest developments and background
More about Alan Johnston's release on BBC News –
BBC's Gaza correspondent released
Johnston describes ordeal
Family "never lost hope"
Reactions to release
In pictures: Johnston release
BBC Press Office/News Publicity