Govt still not sure about Hammerl
Pretoria - South Africa has "no confirmation" where news photographer Anton Hammerl is or if he is in fact alive, the international relations and co-operation department said on Wednesday.
Spokesperson Clayson Monyela also denied a recent media report quoting International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as saying that the South African government had proof that Hammerl was alive.
"That issue of the minister's quote was not captured correctly," he said.
This follows reports that US reporters Clare Gillis and James Foley, Spanish photographer Manu Brabo and British journalist Nigel Chandler were freed on Wednesday.
The Associated Press news agency reported that Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim had said Hammerl was not in Libyan government custody.
"What I know is that they haven't been able to locate him", Ibrahim was quoted as saying.
"If it was the case - that we found him - he would be released," he said.
Monyela said the South African government had "no confirmation" of where Hammerl was or if he was alive and had always been working "on the assumption that he is alive".
He said South African diplomatic staff had been sent back to the Libyan capital city of Tripoli "to ascertain his whereabouts and get access".
He said he did not want to jeopardise any negotiations that were taking place.
"We are very careful with what we can say. You must also realise we are dealing with a war situation there."
Hammerl was apparently seized near the town of Brega on April 5 where Gillis, Foley and Brabu were also seized.
Nkoana-Mashabane was due to hold a meeting with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Tuesday morning, but this had been cancelled.
Sanef chairperson Mondli Makhanya said he hoped the meeting would be held within the next few days, where it was hoped more information could be obtained.
Speaking from London, Hammerl's wife Penny Sukhraj, said she was pleased about the release of the four journalists, but that "we are understandably devastated that there is still a question mark over Anton".
"The reports from the Libyan authorities regarding Anton over the past 24 hours have been contradictory and we call on the South African and Austrian governments to please do everything they can to confirm Anton’s status urgently.
"Our lives have come to a standstill and we desperately hope that the released journalists will be able to provide some insight into Anton’s situation. At this point they seem to be our best hope," she said.