Monday, July 20, 2009

UK Video Journalists attacked during seal hunt

Subject: URGENT NEWS RELEASE : UK journalist attacked and arrested
whilst covering controversial Nambian seal hunt

A British investigative journalist and his South African fixer have
today been violently assaulted by seal hunters and arrested by police
whilst documenting the controversial Nambian seal cull.

Jim Wickens, a reporter with the Brighton-based Ecostorm agency, and
Bart Smithers, a freelance cameraman and fixer, were this morning
attacked by a group of seal hunters armed with clubs before having their
video camera equipment stolen in the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Western

The team, working with Dutch NGO Bontvoordieren, are understood to have
been filming the killing of seals for some twenty minutes before a group
of hunters approached and assaulted them - reportedly punching them to
the ground and hitting them with clubs.

Their cameras and video footage were also seized in the incident, which
happened about 7am this morning.

Police subsequently arrived before arresting the pair on suspicion of
trespass and obstruction.

According to Jim Wickens, a seal hunter again attacked them whilst they
were being held in a police vehicle.

They pair are currently being held at a local police station.

Andrew Wasley, co-director of Ecostorm, said: "We are at present working
with the British High Commission in Namibia to establish the full
picture and secure the release of our team. Clearly this was a violent
and unwarranted attack on two journalists doing their job - gathering
information and pictures of the highly secretive Nambian seal hunt."

He continued: "As well as calling for the immediate release of Jim
Wickens and Bart Smithers we want the Namibian authorities to
investigate the assaults and theft of equipment"

Bontvoordieren - and a growing number of international campaigners - are
calling for the immediate release of the pair from police custody.

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