SA PEN Angered Over Killing of Anton Hammerl and Attempt to Cover It Up

23 May 2011

PRESS RELEASE – 23RD MAY 2011

South African PEN (SA PEN), a member of the International PEN organisation which promotes and protects the interests of writers, authors, editors and poets, is deeply angered at the manner in which the Libyan and South African authorities have conducted themselves over the cruel death of non-combatant South African-Austrian photographer Anton Hammerl in the Libyan desert while covering the hostilities there.

According to two journalists who were with him on April 5 when he was killed by troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Hammerl was shot in the stomach and left for dead in the desert after they were captured and imprisoned in Tripoli.

Hammerl is one of several journalists and photographers who have been killed in the North African fighting — the dreadful toll extracted on journalists when trying to inform the world of what is happening — but his death raises serious questions about the conduct of the authorities — the Libyans for lying in saying that he was in detention, alive and well, despite his having been killed, the South Africans accepting these lies and adding that they had proof that he was alive when they clearly did not and President Zuma for failing to ask Gaddafi about Hammerl in his several conversations with the Libyan leader. The South Africans compounded their untruth that they had proof that Hammerl was alive by claiming that the International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Matabane had been misquoted when they had made no effort to correct the alleged error much earlier after it had been made.

Though Hammerl was not a writer in the accepted sense he was a prolific story teller in photographic images and SA PEN extends its condolences to his wife and family and joins local and international media organisations in demanding the speedy return of his remains and a prosecution and trial by the International Criminal Court of those responsible for his death and coverup.

It is an offence under the Geneva Convention to attack non-combatant journalists covering conflict situations and Hammerl with his visible cameras was clearly identifiable as a journalist.

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