Delegates at the International Federation of Journalists Congress meeting in Athens today welcomed the decision by Israel to release from custody a British journalist who broke the story of Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity in an interview with Mordechai Vanunu 20 years ago.
“His detention under rules which prohibit journalists from speaking to Mordechai Vanunu was unacceptable,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, commenting on the release of Peter Hounam, now working on a project for the BBC, who broke the Vanunu story in the Sunday Times. “But we welcome his release and we hope very much that Israel will rethink the prohibitions that have been imposed on Vanunu. They limit the right to report and are unnecessary.”
Vanunu was kidnapped by Israeli police in Rome, taken back to Tel Aviv, tried and sentenced. He served 18 years in prison, 12 of them in solitary confinement, and was released in April this year.
The IFJ had earlier said that the detention of Hounam, a close associate of Vanunu, was evidence of “continuing hostility” within the Israeli security and political establishment against journalists trying to report on the Vanunu story.
Since his release Vanunu has been subject to restruictions on his freedom of movement and who he can speak to. “These rules don’t work and appear to be vindictive.” Hounam was working on a documentary for the BBC when he was arrested.
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.