'Violent attack' on British journalist detained in Namibia

A British journalist investigating a controversial seal hunt in Namibia has been attacked and arrested, campaigners have claimed.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals said Jim Wickens was assaulted along with his South African cameraman Bart Smithers as they tried to document the hunt at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve in western Namibia at about 7am yesterday.

The pair were filming the killing of seals for about 20 minutes before a group of hunters approached and assaulted them, reportedly punching them to the ground and hitting them with clubs, a WSPA spokeswoman said.

Their cameras and video footage were seized by police before they were arrested on suspicion of trespass and obstruction, she added.

A Foreign Office spokesman said today: “We are aware of the detention of a British national and are making investigations.”

Wickens, of the Brighton-based Ecostorm investigation agency, and Smithers, a freelance cameraman, are being held at a local police station, the WSPA said.

The pair were working with Bont voor Dieren – a Dutch charity which is a member of the WSPA – when they were reportedly attacked by a group of seal hunters armed with clubs.

Andrew Wasley, co-director of Ecostorm, said: “Clearly this was a violent and unwarranted attack on two journalists doing their job; gathering information and pictures of the highly secretive Namibian seal hunt.

“As well as calling for the immediate release of Jim Wickens and Bart Smithers, we want the Namibian authorities to investigate the assaults and theft of equipment.”

Claire Bass, the WSPA’s marine mammals campaigner, said: “The horrific violence of the Namibian seal hunt today reached a whole new level.

“The sealers know how the world will react to these hunts and are clearly prepared to go to any lengths to keep this brutal industry from public view.

“There can be no justification for a clubbing attack against investigators whose only weapon is a camera.”

Claudia Linssen, of Bont voor Dieren, said: “Bont voor Dieren urges the Namibian government to release our investigators and arrest the attackers.”

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