Friday afternoon finally brought some good news for Anton Hammerl's friends and family as the Libyans told the South African government they were holding the photojournalist, and he would phone his family soon. This is only the first step in securing his release, but at least we now know he's alive. By THERESA MALLINSON.
Penny Sukhraj, Hammerl’s wife, said: “This is fantastic news and a huge relief for the family that Anton is indeed safe. We are grateful for this as it puts an end to speculation that he is missing or lost. We hope for official confirmation from the South African government as soon as possible.”
Hammerl was originally believed to have been captured in Libya and detained by the government on 5 April, along with fellow journalists Manu Brabo, Clare Gillis and Jim Foley, but when Gillis was finally able to phone her parents on Thursday, she said Hammerl had not been captured with the other three.
Thursday’s dispiriting news – or lack of news – made Friday’s development all the more welcome. But it is only the first step in securing Hammerl’s release. “We have not yet received any word about when Anton will be allowed a telephone call to the family,” said Sukhraj. “We are anxious for news and we hope the news of Clare’s phone call to her parents is a positive sign for us all as well.”
Jim Foley’s family still await a phone call from their son, but his brother, Michael Foley, said on Friday night that this had not yet materialised. “There is no news on our front,” he said. The Daily Maverick was unable to confirm what the current situation is regarding Spanish photojournalist Manu Brabo, and whether his family is also expecting a call.
When asked for comment on the latest developments regarding Hammerl, department of international relations and cooperation spokesman Clayton Monyela, said: “We continue to work around the clock on this matter, and for us the objective remains to secure his release.”
On Thursday evening, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said most journalists who had been detained by the Libyan government were usually released within a week of the political leadership acknowledging they were being held. Which means, with any luck, Hammerl, Brabo, Foley and Gillis could be home by the end of April. DM
Main Photo: Penny Sukhraj and Anton Hammerl.