BBC calls for reporter's release

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BBC director general Mark Thompson is cutting his Easter vacation short and traveling to the Middle East to make a personal appeal for the return of abducted correspondent Alan Johnston, the BBC said late Wednesday.

Thompson will meet today with local government representatives and give a news conference in the region to appeal for the release of BBC Gaza correspondent Johnston, a month to the day after he first went missing.

The BBC declined to give further details of the news conference, citing security, but said that a separate news conference, hosted by BBC head of news Helen Boaden and Johnson's parents Graham and Margaret Johnston, will be held in London.

"It is now more than a month since his disappearance in Gaza and his family and colleagues at the BBC are increasingly concerned for his well being," the BBC said. "Alan's parents now want to appeal to the hostage takers for his immediate release."

The two news conferences will be part of a day of action that also will include a news special on the kidnapping to be hosted by CNN, Al Jazeera and Sky News as well as BBC News 24 and BBC World.

Meanwhile, the European Broadcasting Union, together with the World Broadcasting Unions on Wednesday, launched an appeal for the immediate and unharmed release of Johnston.

Jean Reveillon, secretary general of the EBU, declared that "there can be no freedom without freedom to inform the public from wherever there is a story to tell." He added, "The media can exercise this freedom by giving voice and visibility to people in conflict zones but journalists must never become the victims of their own profession."

Steve Brennan in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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