In Namibia seal hunt, journalists said to become prey

By Tom Rhodes/Africa Program Coordinator on July 17, 2009 4:56 PM ET

July marks the start of seal hunting season in Namibia, where hunters will be allowed to kill more than 90,000 seals. British journalist Jim Wickens and South African cameraman Bart Smithers filmed the event near Cape Cross Colony on Thursday morning for a British advocacy organization, Ecostorm. That is, until the journalists became the hunted.

Facing pressure from environmental and animal welfare groups, seal hunting in Namibia is a clandestine affair, often done in the early hours to avoid tourists and other witnesses. Prying eyes were not welcome on Thursday. Less than 20 minutes after filming began, hunters allegedly turned their clubs on the journalists. Ecostorm and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) allege that hunters attacked Wickens and Smithers and seized their equipment.

Police were quick to make arrests ... of the two journalists. A WSPA press release alleges that one hunter attacked Wickens and Smithers even as the two were being held in a police van.

A court in Swakopmund convicted the journalists today on charges of entering a protected marine area without a permit, fined them US$1,200 apiece, and imposed six-month suspended sentences, The Associated Press reported. No hunters were arrested.

So there, apparently, is the legal standard: The marine area needs protection from cameras. Journalists (not to mention seals) are not afforded protection from clubs.


The beating was good for the journalists. where did they want to send the information to. edid they think they are working to protect the rights of animals if they have failed to protect human rights in other angles of the globe? Let them stop using Africa to polish their colonial sins they committed in africa by being used by the westerners. I wonder these NGOs missions. look for someting else to justify the money you are eating and not interfere with affairs of other people.

Thankyou to CPJ for picking up on our case here. We were indeed very seriously assaulted and stood to face yet more charges and a stretch in jail if we had remained in the country.

I read the above comment with disgust, and it barely warrants a response. Anyone who suggests journalists deserve to be beaten are perhaps writing on the wrong website... After you applaud the hunters for attacking us in your comment above, you go on to suggest that this issue is just about animal welfare. In fact the seal hunt is a smokescreen and ostensibly justified on the fictitious notion that the seals are to blame for falling fish stocks in Namibia.

Your ignorance, amply demonstrated in your pro-violent rant above, fails to grasp that this story is as much about European fishing fleets stealing from African waters and reducing food security for African people, as it is also about intelligent mammals being brutally clubbed to death to be sold as luxury items in the fur boutiques outside of Africa. The continued exploitation of Africa by non-Africans in the 21st century is thus perfectly embodied in this bloody and brutal hunt, that I was attacked for trying to document. Perhaps you might want to consider the facts before you viciously applaud violence against journalists in the future.

Social Media

View All ›