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Ovi's Person of the Year 2007: Alan Johnston
by Asa Butcher
2007-12-31 09:39:03
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When we asked you to nominate your candidate for Ovi's Person of the Year 2007 we didn't expect to receive such a positive response. Thanks to each of you who took the time to contact us and offer us your choice, plus some rather forceful arguments. However, there can only be one winner and this year it is Alan Johnston.

"BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Held captive in Gaza for 114 days, Alan Johnston never seemed to believe he was more important than the events he was reporting. His extreme modesty and commitment to his profession helped inspire a display of solidarity between the media and public as it should but rarely is." - Comment by Clint

Ovi magazine agreed with Clint's comment and also wanted to remind the world of Alan Johnston's journalistic work before his kidnapping by a group of Palestinian militants on March 12th. At the time of his kidnapping Alan Johnston was the only foreign reporter with a major Western media organisation to still be based in the city and he was relatively unknown to the general public, yet he tirelessly produced daily reports on the Palestinian situation in the Gaza Strip.

His kidnapping thrust this reserved journalist into the spotlight, moving him from reporting the news to being the news - an uncomfortable position for many journalists. However, his kidnapping focused attention on his work and dedication to duty, which was further rewarded when the London Press Club named him as British Broadcasting Journalist of the Year and Amnesty International awarded him a prize for his radio reports on human rights in Gaza, which praised his "commitment to telling ordinary peoples' stories."

Alan Johnston's kidnapping also managed to achieve an incredible feat of uniting so many people, ranging from politicians to journalists, officials to ordinary people. Here at Ovi magazine we were part of the hundreds of different blogs and websites that posted a simple 'Free Alan Johnston' button to our front page courtesy of the BBC. It is believed that it was also added to hundreds of MySpace profiles, Technoratti counted the 'Alan Johnston' tags into the thousands.

Whether this show of force across the globe influenced the kidnappers or motivated those in power to facilitate Alan Johnston's release faster is unknown, but it was a positive feeling to be an integral part of this unity. It isn't often that so many people become pro-active and feel the need or obligation to speak out with one voice, especially when you consider how many other journalists are kidnapped or killed each year.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 2007 witnessed a new record in the number of journalists killed in action. Today their 'Press Freedom Barometer' reads:

86 Journalists killed

20 Media assistants killed

135 Journalists imprisoned

7 Media assistants imprisoned

65 Cyberdissidents imprisoned

21 countries saw at least one journalist killed, while over half - yes, half - were killed in Iraq. From January 5th to December 14th, 47 journalists have been killed while reporting on the continuing violence continually erupting across the country and this shows no sign of abating in 2008. From the latest victim in the Philippines, Fernando Lintuan, dxGO Radio, to the first, Ahmed Hadi Naji, occasional cameraman, the year has been a bloody one, yet very few have made the headlines like Alan Johnston's kidnapping. The murder of Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, did capture many column inches in January, but it still did not bring the same reaction to the abducted BBC correspondent.

Alan Johnston was lucky to have been a BBC reporter, plus the fact he supported the Palestinians, helped the coverage he received a great deal, but it was still his dignity before and after his kidnapping that impressed the world and Ovi magazine. Alan Johnston united a fracturing world for 114 days and showed us all that there is hope in overcoming all adversity.

Thank you, Alan; you are our Person of the Year.

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Jack2008-01-01 07:20:13
Excellent choice for person of the year (2007). The conclusion had such a happy, hopeful, feel good ending to it that it gives one hope in this world, where all we hear about are tragedy piled upon misery.

The media believes it can not sell what the public doesn't see as terrible...thus all the news is reduced to one horrendous event after another and the good news that is out there, is never covered. And we could all use a little good news. Small wonder that there is much global apathy over world events, which then breeds indifference and defeatest attitudes. I am not surprised then that my children and grandchildren show concern for their future.

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