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Still Missing : Alan Johnston
April 13, 2007 4:19 AM   Subscribe

Alan Johnston,the only western journalist (BBC) in Gaza is still missing. Despite calls from various quarters , local protests , a first ever meeting between the UK gov and Hamas, and unprecedentated 'global media' co-operation. He seems as far from his family as ever.
posted by burr1545 (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This is a terrible story and I hope the guy is OK, wherever he is.

But whenever I hear about this story, I think about perspectives. From our perspective, terrorists have grabbed him. But from their perspective, they've grabbed him to try and get publicity for their cause (the BBC are the de facto worldwide news service, after all). They're probably driven by desperation, and a burning desire for others to hear their message (however incorrect that might be).

What I can't understand is why we don't hear their perspective. I don't want to hear their story. I want know know their point of view, and what they hope to achieve by doing this. What's wrong with letting them win this battle, and getting their message across, especially if we get the reporter back home safe? Are the news services afraid we will be corrupted by their message? I want this kind of thing to be mainstream news, rather than having the Prime Minister or Bush blabbing on about how we must all fight terrorism.

It's at times like this you realize how much the media is effectively an agent of the state. Sure, it can question the state, and report scandals involving members of the state apparatus. But it knows what's best for it. I appreciate that in the US it's unthinkable for the media to report a different perspective, but here in the UK we're slightly more independent in our thinking.
posted by humblepigeon at 4:55 AM on April 13, 2007


Maybe they could get their perspective across in a more effective manner by talking to journalists rather than kidnapping them?
posted by PenDevil at 5:04 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]



Maybe they could get their perspective across in a more effective manner by talking to journalists rather than kidnapping them?


Yes. Especially a journalist like Alan Johnston, who has been anything but a state mouthpiece, almost uniquely among the international media living in Gaza long-term and providing both sides of the story almost more than anyone.

rather than having the Prime Minister or Bush blabbing on about how we must all fight terrorism.

humblepigeon I think you are picking the wrong battle in applying this argument to the Johnston kidnapping. It really is in the Palestinians' interests as much as anyone's for him to be released. Hence the vocal support for the BBC's protest from Palestinian journalists.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:10 AM on April 13, 2007


Get this guy back. We should do what we have to, but we should get him back. And, with all due respect to humblepigeon, I don't want to hear "their perspective" right now (whoever "they" are). Sure, I imagine "they" have big problems. But "they" seem to have kidnapped the guy. That's not cricket. When "they" give him back unharmed, then I'll listen to them all they want.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:11 AM on April 13, 2007


Maybe they could get their perspective across in a more effective manner by talking to journalists rather than kidnapping them?

So you're saying that we're not allowing them to get their message across as a form of punishment?

My point isn't that we should only listen when they do something like this. We should always be listening. Fact is that the media very rarely report from 'the other side' of a battle. Now you might get a few news stories about how awful it is for Palestinians, or Irqais, but that's not the same thing. What I'm asking for is for somebody to present, in a mature way, the other side of the debate—the other perspective.

Here in the UK we can get a taste of this by tuning into the English language version of Al Jazeera, but in some ways that's just as bad because all we end-up getting is an overdose of the alternative point of view.

I guess what I'm asking is whether it's possible to have a non-partisan news service. It seems the standard mode is for news agencies and reporters to take a stance, and write from that point of view exclusively.
posted by humblepigeon at 5:15 AM on April 13, 2007


What I'm asking for is for somebody to present, in a mature way, the other side of the debate—the other perspective.

Yeah - but they've kidnapped this somebody. Or one of a small number of such somebodies. That's the whole point.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:19 AM on April 13, 2007


From their perspective, we do the exact same thing... grab people off the streets and spirit them off to jail, basically forever. In our case, we do this in foreign countries, even... we don't even limit ourselves to our home turf.

Yeah, the guy's a journalist, and yes, it's dumb tactically for them to grab and/or kill him, but we have no business whatsoever crying about the tactics. It's not like we have the moral high ground here.

I really hope the guy gets home. To help keep it from happening again, I hope we stop doing pretty much the same shit. Their families suffer just as much as Mr. Johnston's.
posted by Malor at 5:27 AM on April 13, 2007


As this shows Alan is a friend of the Palestinians. It has been mooted that the this kidnapping is more about local Gaza political infighting and feuds than Palestinian rights in general.
posted by adamvasco at 5:51 AM on April 13, 2007


From their perspective, we do the exact same thing... grab people off the streets and spirit them off to jail, basically forever. In our case, we do this in foreign countries, even... we don't even limit ourselves to our home turf.

I'd never seen it this way, and while I think your point is debatable, this is precisely the kind of thing I wish our mainstream media outlets would discuss.
posted by humblepigeon at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2007


From our perspective, terrorists have grabbed him etc.

Is that our perspective? I thought our perspective was more that he's been grabbed by an unknown party, quite possibly as an offshoot of some complicated local dispute. People have been known to kidnap people in Gaza in order to demand a job in the (patronage-system dominated) police force. It's not really a terrorists-vs.-x type issue.

My wife works for the BBC and has had dealings with Alan Johnston. He was fantastically nice and helpful when she rang him for advice about some personnel-type stuff a week or two before he was kidnapped. He's also a great journalist. There's petition for his release on the BBC website.
posted by Mocata at 7:11 AM on April 13, 2007


I have to assume that in addition to a lack of political sympathy one of the reasons that the media wouldn't share "their perspective", is that part of "their perspective" is that it's okay to kidnap journalists and hold them against their will. Being in the journalism business this seems like just the kind of "perspective" that the BBC and other media organizations would try to avoid sharing. I imagine it would be pretty difficult to get another BBC reporter, or really any reporter, to report favorably on his colleague getting kidnapped.
posted by frieze at 7:30 AM on April 13, 2007


The Paslestinians who go on record seem opposed to this kidnapping and are trying to get the journalist set free but thus far have heard noting--including "perspective"--from the kidnappers. The BBC, left leaning, has been sympathteic to the Palestinais...and this is must seem a slap in the face.

Kidnapping and holding journalists is hardly a smart move to further one's cause.
posted by Postroad at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2007


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