Alan Johnston freed
Calls in the middle of the night are something of an occupational hazard for a journalist. Never have I been more pleased to be woken as I was at 1.36 this morning. It was the newsdesk with a line of copy from a news agency. It read:
- "BBC JOURNALIST ALAN JOHNSTON FREED, HANDED TO HAMAS OFFICIALS IN GAZA" - PALESTINIAN SOURCE.
It was the end of a nightmare. 114 days after he was abducted, Alan is free. Over the last 16 weeks, more than 200,000 of you have signed our online petition, thousands more have added your comments to our Have Your Say website.
As he crossed from Gaza early this morning, Alan told me how he'd drawn real support from the knowledge that so many people were showing their solidarity - how he felt a duty to get through it to show their support was not misplaced. Typical Alan.
But your support was vital in sustaining not only Alan and his family, but also his colleagues, who, for the past 16 weeks, have rallied in a show of solidarity. And not just on the BBC News website.
For 14 of his 16 weeks in captivity, Alan had access to the BBC World Service. The messages from the listeners to World Have Your Say were an enormous source of strength - particularly those from former hostages like Terry Waite, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan who recorded birthday wishes for a special edition of the programme earlier this year.
In launching the BBC's Annual Report (PDF link) yesterday, the BBC Director General Mark Thompson said that the BBC depends on people like Alan - on their courage and integrity and conviction.
Since his release, Alan has conducted a series of media interviews (listen here) in his usual calm and composed way, displaying all of these qualities in his reporting - the same qualities that will help him through the difficult days he will now face as he re-adjusts to normal life. From all of us at the BBC - to all of you who played your part in helping secure Alan's freedom - thank you.