Bloggers spread free Johnston message

Alan JohnstonBloggers have circulated an internet badge showing support for kidnapped BBC News journalist Alan Johnston nearly a thousand times in the last fortnight.

BBC world news editor Jon Williams unveiled the badge on 17 April, inviting bloggers around the world to add the image to their websites in support of the captured Gaza reporter.

Since then, the badge has cropped up on blogs and social networking profiles around the world and has generated 944 links to the special page set up to document Johnston’s detention, according to statistics from Technorati, the largest blog monitoring index.

Using the same kind of methodology deployed by online marketers and resembling so-called “widgets”, which let online publishers and social net users redistribute fragments of content on another’s behalf, the badge has become a key component in the online effort to free Johnston.

Many of the sites redistributing the badge have little in common with journalism thus showing the broad wave of support for the campaign.

The image is also being used on all of BBC News’ official blogs, as well as on

BBC News’ deputy head of newsgathering Jonathan Baker revealed that a petition set up to demand Johnston’s release has now received 61,000 signatures, while website editor Steve Hermann said the site had begun showing a regular count of the number of days in which Johnston has been in captivity – currently 49.

“It’s a message which you are more and more likely to come across as you surf around the internet, thanks to the help of an increasing number of people who want to show their support for Alan,” Mr Hermann wrote.