Protest held for missing lensman

2011-04-21 12:54

 Journalists, colleagues and friends of missing SA photojournalist Anton Hammerl gathered in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, today to draw attention to his disappearance.

Hammerl,?a South African photographer based in London, disappeared while on an assignment in Libya more than two weeks ago.

“Find him, free him, bring him home,” the protesters chanted as passing motorists hooted in support.

Hammerl’s father Ludwig, who was among the protesters, said the United Nations had contacted him yesterday and told him his son was being “well- looked after’’. They could however, not tell him where his son was being held.

“No-one knows (where he is) or when he will be freed,’’ Ludwig said.

He said the family had last heard from Anton three weeks ago.

“Everybody is just very worried.”

Ludwig said the South African government was in contact with him.

The government has come under fire for its lack of assistance in getting the photographer released.

A message from Anton’s wife, Penny Sukhraj and the rest of his family, was read out at the protest.

“Dear friends, your participation in this campaign to encourage the South African government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the authorities in Libya, who are believed to be holding Anton, Clare Gillis, James Foley and Manu Brabo, is greatly appreciated.

“Thanks to your persistence, hard work and commitment, we received heartening news this week of our government’s intervention in this matter at the highest level, for which we are deeply grateful. But the fight for Anton and the other journalists’ release is not yet over – we will not rest until Anton, Clare, James and Manu are home with their families,’’ the message read.

Yesterday, a group of journalists and other concerned South Africans staged a protest outside Parliament in Cape Town where they handed over a memorandum to the department of international relations and cooperation, expressing their disappointment that Zuma had not personally asked for Hammerl’s release while he was in Libya recently.

The memorandum, which was signed by the Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa, the Social Justice Coalition and the Treatment Action Campaign, called for “tangible developments” – particularly information about Hammerl’s whereabouts.

It was reported yesterday that Zuma had told the Department of International Relations to exhaust all “diplomatic channels” to find Hammerl.

The Presidency said Zuma was being briefed regularly by Minister of International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on her department’s efforts to trace the photographer.

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