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'Israel's Secret Weapon' Wins Peabody Award

March 31, 2004:

ATHENS, Ga. - The winners of the 63rd Annual Peabody Awards were announced today by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The 29 award winners for excellence in electronic media, chosen from more than 1,100 entries, included an Individual Peabody to Bill Moyers, the first Peabody given to a Web site, joint recognition of MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation for public service, and BBC America's comedy The Office.

The awards will be presented May 17, 2004, at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Katie Couric, co-anchor of NBC's Today and contributing anchor for Dateline NBC, will host the ceremony.

Commenting on this year's winners, Horace Newcomb, Peabody Awards Director, said, The winners announced today are a strong reflection of the current state of the media industry. As always, the honorees run the gamut from the best in international programming to documentaries and local investigative reporting to public service campaigns. And, for the first time, we've awarded a program developed specifically for the Internet.

Of note in 2003 was the similarity of coverage on the international front, such as the war in Iraq and the apparent difficulties encountered by entertainment shows to make their way through the welter of 'reality' programming. That said we are deeply proud of all the winners, who demonstrate that high standards can be maintained in the flood of images and messages streaming into our homes every day.

This year's winners included BBC2's Israel's Secret Weapon, a report exposing Israel's nuclear weapons program, and BBC America's acclaimed comedy, The Office. Two more international programs were cited this year: ZDF German TV's Chavez: Inside the Coup, a behind-the-scenes view of the events that temporarily overthrew Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves; and from Japan's TV Asahi, Mother Flew Away as a Kite, an arresting animated recounting of the last days of WWII....

The Peabody Board is a 15-member group, comprised of television critics, broadcast and cable industry executives and experts in culture and the arts, that judges the entries. Selection is made by the Board following review by special screening committees of UGA faculty, students and staff.

The Peabody Awards, established in 1940 and administered by UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, are the oldest honor in electronic media. Today the Peabody recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. For more information, visit:

Olenka Frienkel's comments during the 30 seconds she was given at the Awards Ceremony on May 17:

This was a very controversial film and I would like to thank the Peabody jury for this honour, our editor Karen O'Connor who had the courage to commission it, my husband and children who supported me while making it and Link TV the small satellite TV station which has shown the film a number of times - unlike the big US networks - too controversial for them to touch it.

But most of all this Peabody award goes to Mordechai Vanunu whom we invited here today to collect this honour with us but who is not permitted to leave Israel or to speak freely. Even though he has served every single day of his eighteen year sentence he is still a prisoner there, unable to speak to foreigners or to leave.

I received an email from his brother this morning which I would like to read to you.

He says he would like to appeal to the people of the US and the Government of the US to help Mordechai Vanunu leave Israel and settle in the US where he will be able to live as a free man and enjoy the right to freedom of speech.

I would also like to thank Giselle - we are a team."

Email from Meir Vanunu to Olenka Frienkel with Mordechai's response to the Peabody Award:

As it is forbidden on Mordechai to communicate directly with foriegn citizens , I am putting in words the things Mordechai had told me upon reading your message regarding the award.

He was very thankful for your message.

Mordechai hasn't yet seen your programme. He heard about the award in NY, and wishes to congratulate you very much as he thinks you deserve it, because your programme showed the world the dangerous realities of Israel's nuclear weapons programme in secrecy.

His message to the award peolple is:

He wants to thank the Peabody and the BBC for helping in highlighting his plight.

He had one objective: To inform the world and particularly the people of Israel, THROUGH THE PRESS, of the total secrecy and the lacking of any accountability of Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme.

For that he has suffered a great punishment, he was kidnapped, drugged and imprisoned as a spy for seventeen and a half years in isolation.

After he served his full punishment they continue persecuting him, by limiting his physical freedom and his freedom of expression, this is all because he dared tell the truth, and also, Mordechai says, because of his conversion to Christianity.

He appeals to the government and the people of the US to support his basic right to be a free man, to leave Israel and to reside in the US with his close friends and relatives. He wishes to thank you.

Mordechai has repeated what he has stated outside the prison:

" Free the Middle East from all nuclear weapons. Open Dimona reactor for international inspection."

- Meir Vanunu

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