Media in the Palestinian territories boycotted a meeting Tuesday between the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as part of a wider protest against the Palestinian government‘s inability to free a kidnapped BBC journalist.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, is on a Mideast tour with a delegation of lawmakers, including the first Muslim member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
But her meeting with Abbas coincided with the strike journalists called in solidarity with 44-year-old Alan Johnston of the British Broadcasting Corp., who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip on March 12.
Johnston is the longest-held reporter ever abducted in Gaza. There has been no word on his whereabouts or condition, and no demands have been issued.
‘We are very concerned for the fate of our colleague,‘ said Naim Tubasi, head of the Palestinian journalists union.
Eleven journalists have been kidnapped in Gaza over the past three years.
All were released unharmed, most within days of capture. Kidnappers, who usually take hostages to settle scores or demand jobs, are rarely punished, however, which journalists say has encouraged the practice.
Many suspect that members of a powerful Gaza clan took Johnston. But efforts to free him have made little progress.
Pelosi‘s trip includes stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The last leg has drawn criticism from the White House, which accuses Syria of supporting terrorism.
Pelosi has said when she visits Damascus, she will tell leaders that Israel will only engage in peace talks if Syria stops supporting Palestinian militants.