A petition calling on the Libyan government to release Anton Hammerl, a South African photographer, and three other overseas journalists being detained in Libya 21 days ago, hit the 27 000 mark by midday yesterday (Monday, April 25).
Hammerl’s plight has received international attention since his disappearance and the petition is getting support from all four corners of the globe.
Thousands of people have signed the petition calling for his release and that of American journalists Clare Gillis and James Foley and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo. While it is unclear as to how Hammerl came to be detained, the other three were captured while travelling together in a volatile area on the outskirts of Brega on April 5.
Yesterday the petition to release all four was still growing. People from all over the world, including New Zealand, South Africa, America, Romania, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Australia and England, among others, had signed it.
Foley’s friends in America, who started the petition for the release of the four and who have spearheaded the drive to get it signed, had initially hoped that it would reach 5 000. But this expectation was massively surpassed when, over the Easter weekend, it shot up from 10 000 to 20 000 in less than 24 hours.
It seems that the petition took on a life of its own, especially after Care2.com, which is hosting the petition, featured it in its blog on April 21. The blog reaches the organisation’s 15 million members.
Two days later, the petition had jumped from 8 500 signatures to over 25 000. “We never expected to attract so much worldwide support,” said Sarah Fang, one of Foley’s friends, and the creator of the petition.
Penny Sukhraj, Hammerl’s wife, said that the petition had been signed by all of Hammerl’s family and many of his friends and his former colleagues from his days at newspapers.
“It is absolutely amazing how so many people who have worked with Anton over the past 15 years have come together to join the campaign for his and the other journalists’ release. It’s not just a testament to his work as a photojournalist but also an indication of how many people have been affected by his caring, considerate nature over the years. Everyone wants to see Anton home,” Sukhraj said.
However, the fate of Hammerl and the three journalists still lies in the balance. And Hammerl’s family has once again appealed to supporters and friends to keep up their efforts to get him released. To date no one has had contact with Hammerl since he disappeared on April 5.
Freda Hammerl, Anton’s mother, said, “We are amazed at how the world has rallied around us. And in particular the South African media community and public, but we are still anxiously waiting for Anton to make contact. Only once we have spoken to him will we begin to believe that he is on his way home to us. It is excruciating that other families have had calls and we have not.”
The family expressed heartfelt gratitude to everyone who is calling for Hammerl’s release and who has offered support in the past few weeks since he was detained. They extended their thanks to the Foley team who started the petition and to everyone around the world who has signed it.
They urged everyone to continue showing their support for Hammerl and the three fellow journalists until their release.
The petition can be accessed here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/free-captured-American-journalists/
The ‘Free photographer Anton Hammerl Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Free-photographer-Anton-Hammerl/180764838637385