GAZA PROTEST FOR MISSING REPORTER

Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK “BBC NEWS

Palestinian children have taken part in a demonstration in Gaza to press for the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, missing since 12 March.

Scores of children took to the streets, some holding banners, others carrying his picture, Reuters news agency said.
A BBC correspondent in Gaza said Mr Johnston had been remembered at Friday prayer meetings.

He is presumed to have been kidnapped. But there has been no statement from any kidnappers or any talk of a ransom.

Palestinian journalists have been campaigning for the Palestinian authorities to do more to secure Mr Johnston’s safe release.

Mr Johnston, the only international correspondent based in Gaza, has been held captive longer than any other journalist there.

Growing pressure

On Thursday a British diplomat had talks about Mr Johnston with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, a member of the militant Hamas movement.

It was the first meeting with Mr Haniya for the UK government, which normally boycotts Hamas as a terrorist group.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also met Mr Haniya in Gaza, and faced demonstrations by Palestinian journalists outside his presidential office in Gaza City.

“We will not spare any effort to bring back the journalist, the friend, the human being to his family,” Mr Abbas said.

The BBC has received thousands of messages of the support from users of the News website demanding the release of Alan Johnston.

It describes Mr Johnston as a highly experienced and respected reporter.

He joined the BBC World Service in 1991 and has spent eight of the last 16 years as a correspondent, including periods in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

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