People: Hefty price-tag for freedom

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The Independent Online
THE PRICE of peace in Jericho and Gaza comes high for journalists wishing to accompany Yasser Arafat around the newly autonomous areas. For dollars 20,000 ( pounds 13,330), reporters can travel with the Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman from his headquarters in Tunis and back, dine with him and have access to details of his itinerary.

A mere dollars 10,000 will allow them to attend banquets and see Mr Arafat at close quarters, although photographers will have to pay the full dollars 20,000. Press conferences will be free. After huge sums are paid for security, the plane and other amenities, the remaining funds will go towards building a science and culture academy, say Palestinian officials.

The jaunt will be Mr Arafat's first with hundreds of journalists. His travel plans are usually kept secret for security reasons. Even now, no exact departure date has been set, although those who sign up have been promised 48 hours' notice.

A DECADE after the death of Richard Hughes, the legendary Hong Kong-based foreign correspondent, his son has published a book claiming that his father spied for the Russians and was a double agent for the British. The Australian-born Hughes was the doyen of Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents Club for 20 years and was the inspiration for a character in John Le Carre's The Honourable Schoolboy.

Dick Hughes, a jazz musician in Sydney, says in his book Don't You Sing that his father was recruited by the Russians in the early 1950s, when he was a correspondent in Tokyo. Hughes snr consulted Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond and then his foreign editor at the Sunday Times, who told him to ask for double the money and spy for Britain as well.

'My father didn't feel compromised,' says Mr Hughes. 'The money he earned was paid into a bank in Glasgow and then siphoned or laundered back in some strange way to MI6. He wasn't making the money himself. He was feeding the Russians the information the British wanted fed to them.'

Hughes apparently stopped spying after Kim Philby defected to Russia in 1963; he knew that Philby would be aware of his double-agent status.

OUTDOING even Margaret Thatcher, who as Prime Minister had Downing Street closed off by heavy metal gates, George Bush has won a bit more privacy in his retirement after the Houston City Council voted to close off his street. The council backed an ordinance that allows residents to close automatic security gates built at the entrance and exit of the horseshoe-shaped street. Waves of sightseers, including tour buses that sometimes drove over people's lawns, have plagued the neighbourhood since Mr Bush moved in last year.

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