Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Getting rid of that 'just kidnapped' look"

The last time I cried during the Today Programme was when they were marking the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War.

More broadly, I have shed tears over the Situation In That Part Of The World, as I call it, on more occasions than I care to count.

One memorable one was in the toilets at Loughborough University after I danced to I Will Survive with a Palestinian colleague who had made a very long and difficult journey from Nablus to talk to us about trying to restore destroyed water supplies to households living under curfew.

Another was when I went to a talk given by a journalist writing about the Middle East for the Economist. The crux of his message was 'basically, it's completely fucked'. He didn't hold out any hope whatever, and he was pretty much right. I hadn't considered before that it might be hopeless, and it upset me a lot.

What did it for me on the Today Programme in question, however, wasn't the all-too-familiar back and forth of entrenched, furious, fundamentally opposing points of view. I dozed through some parts of it, shouted at other parts, tried to reconcile still others with what I've been told and what I've read. No, what did it for me was the last fifteen seconds, when they ended with a tribute to their colleague Alan Johnston and a wish for his safe release. It was one of those rare Today Programme endings that runs directly into the pips. I am sure they do them on purpose for extra poignancy. They usually work, and this one certainly did: I sobbed till I'd (temporarily) run out of sadness.

This morning I woke up to hear that he was on his way home, and that the tireless campaigning by his colleagues, and journalists everywhere, had got through to him via the World Service. It made me cry all over again. There were 28 days, give or take, between these two bouts of sobbing, so my reaction is perhaps not surprising, but they were all tears worth shedding.

And while the Situation In That Part Of The World still looks pretty fucking bleak, I am so happy they let him go. I bloody love the World Service. Nothing else comes close. Principled journalism is one of the few pinpricks of light in the darkness created when unstoppable forces meet immovable objects.




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