Magazine article The Spectator

The Melanie Maze

Magazine article The Spectator

The Melanie Maze

Article excerpt

Sir: It's a pity Melanie Phillips didn't do the basic journalistic checks with us before going into print with her highly speculative article about Alan Johnston's kidnap ('A major defeat in the war to defend the free world', 4 August).

Alan lived and worked as a reporter in Gaza for three years. He was the only Westerner to be permanently based there and, as any good reporter would, he had close working contacts with all shades of political life in Gaza -- including Hamas and Fatah representatives. He wouldn't have been doing his job properly if he hadn't had such contacts.

Yes, our Jerusalem Bureau Chief did contact Hamas leaders in Gaza and Damascus as we tried to get Alan released. We also had extensive contact with the Fatah leadership including Mohamed Dahlan and Prime Minister Abbas. As Mark Thompson said when Alan disappeared, the BBC would talk to anyone in our efforts to get Alan released.

Melanie's allegations about Fayed abu Shamala recycle an incorrect Jerusalem Post story which used a Hamas website as a source for Fayed's remarks. …

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