The family of former Saturday Star Chief Photographer, Anton Hammerl has announced that a petition calling on the Libyan government to release him and three other journalists has reached 27 000 signatures. Picture: Cara Viereckl

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling on Libya to release South African photographer Anton Hammerl and three other foreign journalists.

“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, 2011),” said Hammerl's family and the Free Anton Hammerl Campaign in a joint statement.

His wife, Penny Sukhraj, said: “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,” she said.

Hammerl's mother, Freda, said she was amazed by the support but still anxiously waiting for him to make contact.

To date no-one has had contact with Hammerl since he was seized by Libyan militia near the city of Brega on April 5.

Spanish photographer Manu Brabo and two US journalists, James Foley, a freelance reporter with GlobalPost.com, and Clare Morgana

Gillis of TheAtlantic.com, were detained the same day.

Gillis told her parents in a phone call from Libya last week that Hammerl was not with the trio when they were detained.

Austrian Foreign ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal told Sapa on Monday that both the South African government and the Austrian government had “received simultaneous confirmation” that the photographer, who holds dual SA-Austrian nationality, was alive.

The confirmation was obtained from a network of contacts in the troubled North African country.

“We have two independent sources that told us he was alive, that he was well,” said Launsky-Tieffenthal.

He however cautioned that he would be much happier once Hammerl had been heard from directly or had made contact with his family. - Sapa