July 18, 2009

Journalists Fined For Documenting Seal Hunt

Two European journalists were fined on Friday for filming an annual seal hunt along the coast of the southern African nation, according to their lawyer.

Raywood Rukoro, the two journalists' lawyer, said that British investigative journalist Jim Wilckens and South African cameraman Bart Smithers were found guilty of violating the Marine Resources Act by entering a restricted area without permission.

Both of the men were released after a $652 fine each, he said, adding that they had intentions to leave Namibia soon, even though they are not being deported.

"We are happy this is over and we will leave as soon as possible," Wilckens told reporters afterwards.

Police arrested the two men while they were documenting the Namibian seal cull.  They were kept at police cells about 250 miles from the capital Windhoek at Henties Bay.

Wilckens, who reports for the British-based Eco-Storm agency, and Smithers were working with Bont Voor Dieren, a Dutch non-governmental organization.

Co-director of Eco-Storm, Andrew Wasley, said that workers that were involved in the cull had beaten up the two.

"One of the two reporters laid a charge of physical assault, but no one has been arrested yet", a police officer told AFP.

On July 1, the annual commercial seal-harvesting season opened up with a quota of 85,000 pups.  The animals will be clubbed to death for their fur on the Namibian coast.