The South African government has formally requested
U.S. assistance in finding South African freelance photographer Anton
Lazarus Hammerl, who went missing in eastern Libya on April 5. The last
known contact with Hammerl was a phone call to his wife the previous
evening. He had planned to photograph the ongoing conflict between rebel
and government forces and to later find an outlet to buy the photos.
was originally thought to have been detained alongside three other
journalists: American Clare Morgana Gillis, a freelancer who writes for The Atlantic and USA Today; American James Foley of GlobalPost;
and Spanish photographer Manuel Varela de Seijas Brabo. Libyan
witnesses saw government troops apprehend three journalists outside
Brega on April 5. An investigation by Human Rights Watch into that
incident concluded that all four missing journalists had been taken
together. However, it is now believed that Hammerl was not with the
other three at the time.
Gillis, Foley, and Brabo
were seen on Thursday at a detention center in Tripoli, where they were
reportedly being treated well. However, the Libyan government does not
currently acknowledge that it is holding the journalists and has not
allowed any outside diplomats or journalists to visit them. The Atlantic could not confirm whether Hammerl was also present at the detention center.
State Department officials in Tunisia, who are working toward the
release of the journalists, have been unable to contact their South
African diplomatic counterparts there, according to a State Department
spokesperson. The South African diplomatic mission to Libya, which
evacuated when fighting began there, is now planning on returning to
Tripoli, a South African government official in Pretoria told The Atlantic.
Over the weekend, South African President Jacob Zuma traveled to Tripoli as part of an African Union delegation, raising hopes that Zuma might personally negotiate Hammerl's release. After the trip, South African spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told reporters that Hammerl's status "could not have been discussed" during the trip and was not raised by any members of Zuma's delegation.
The Atlantic, as well as GlobalPost and USA Today, are coordinating with Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department, and foreign government officials based in Tripoli to ascertain Hammerl's location and work toward his safe release.
See Also: White House Calls for Release of Journalists Detained in Libya (Apr. 11)
Detained Journalists Thought to Be Held in Tripoli Jail (Apr. 10)
Reporters Detained in Libya Remain in Government Custody (Apr. 10)
Detained Journalists Believed to Be in Libyan Government Possession (Apr. 8)
Atlantic Reporter Detained in Libya (Apr. 7)
Photo courtesy Hammerl family