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Apr 13, 2007 at 01:21pm IST

BBC appeals over kidnapped reporter

Ramallah: BBC Director General Mark Thompson appealed for the release of journalist Alan Johnston on Thursday, a month after he was abducted at gunpoint in Gaza City, saying he was increasingly concerned about the reporter's welfare.

"It is vital for all journalists to be able to report freely and without fear of harassment and intimidation," Thompson said.

"I appeal to all those who may have influence with the kidnappers to use their best endeavors to secure Alan's release, safely and speedily, and to ensure his return to his family and friends as quickly as possible."

HELD UP: Alan Johnston of BBC was kidnapped on his way home from work on March 12 in Gaza.

The BBC reporter was kidnapped on his way home from work on March 12 and has been held longer than any other Western captive in Gaza. Two Fox news journalists were abducted in August and held for two weeks.

"We are increasingly concerned about the physical and mental toll his incarceration must be taking on him" and his family," Thompson said.

At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thompson told reporters he had met with Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and been told by the Palestinian President there was "credible evidence" that Johnston was "safe and well," and that Palestinians authorities were "fully engaged with Alan's case and are working to resolve it as soon as possible."

Thompson said the BBC had not been in direct contact with Johnston's captors and had not received any ransom demands.

Thompson called Johnston "a brave, dedicated and humane journalist who is deeply committed to reporting events in Gaza to the wider world."

Thompson's appeal came amid a day of events intended to raise awareness about Johnston's continuing detention which included a broadcast by his father, Graham Johnston, carried simultaneously by the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera and Sky.

"You have families. Please think about what this is doing to my family, including in particular the distress and deep, deep concern Alan's mother and sister have had to endure for all these long weeks," said Graham Johnston in an appeal to his son's abductors.

"As I have said before – please – let my son go. Now. Today!" he said.