Journalists convicted for filming Namibia seal hunt

July 18th, 2009 - 1:26 am ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg/Amsterdam, July 17 (DPA) A court in Namibia Friday found two journalists guilty of illegally filming the country’s controversial annual seal hunt.
Jim Wickens, a journalist with British investigative agency Ecostorm, and Bart Smithers, a South African cameraman, were shooting a documentary on the seal hunt for Dutch lobby group, Bont voor Dieren (”Fur for Animals”) when they were arrested Thursday in Cape Cross Seal Nature Reserve. They were released later on bail.

Bont voor Dieren said prior to their arrest the journalists were attacked by a group of hunters, who beat them with the clubs they use to kill the seals.

A magistrate’s court in the resort town of Swakopmund convicted the journalists of entering a marine reserve without authorisation and ordered them to pay a fine of 10,000 Namibian dollars ($1,245) or spend 12 months in prison. They opted to pay the fine.

The court did not deliberate on the attack allegations.

Bont voor Dieren director Claudia Linzen said the pair had not sought permission to film the hunt “as it was expected the Namibian government would not give such permission, because it supports seal hunting”.

Namibia’s Ministry of Fisheries has set a quota of 86,000 seal pups and 6,000 bulls eligible for the hunt per year for three years starting in 2007 to contain a population of an estimated 650,000 seals.

Animal rights activists says the cull is inhumane and claim that it has led to a dramatic decrease in Namibia’s seal population.

The Namibia government says that seal populations need to be controlled to protect fish stocks.

The fur, skin, meat, fat and genitals of the seals are all harvested and sold.

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