World Press Photo Beirut exhibition closes early as locals protest over Israeli photojournalist’s images

I am posting this statement about the World Press Photo show in Beirut closing early – it was due to close on 1 June. Here’s the statement in its entirety as International Editor Hotshoe Bill Kouwenhoven emailed it to me today.

Statement to the press

Amsterdam, 22 May 2011

“World Press Photo decided to close its exhibition in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday, ten days in advance of the official closing date. The presence of prizewinning work by an Israeli photojournalist in the exhibition had sparked protests locally, and the Beirut exhibition organizers felt they could no longer guarantee the safety of the visitors or the exhibit itself, if the pictures remained on display.

“World Press Photo does not accept that any photographs are removed from the presentation, and the decision was made to dismantle and close the entire exhibition.” Read more…

“The exhibition showcasing the prizewinning images in the 2011 World Press Photo contest had opened in Beirut on 12 May in the presence of hundreds of guests, including many local photographers and media, and was due to run until 1 June. The presentation includes a series of photographs by Israeli photojournalist Amit Sha’al of street scenes in current-day Israel, juxtaposed with historic photographs of the same location. The series was awarded Third prize in the Arts and Entertainment category.

“World Press Photo managing director Michiel Munneke said: “The integrity of our exhibition was at stake. Removing any prizewinning photos would come down to censorship, which for us is not acceptable. In this instance, closing the exhibition was the only way we could remain true to our principle of promoting freedom of information. We regret that we had no other choice and we hope that we will be able to bring our exhibition back to Lebanon soon again.”

“”World Press Photo’s mission is to support and promote the work of press photographers and stimulate freedom of expression on an international level. World Press Photo Foundation, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, operates independently without any political affiliations. The World Press Photo exhibition presents the awarded work of all the prizewinners in what is regarded the most prestigious annual photography contest for professional photojournalists in the world.

This year, 5.691 photographers from 125 countries participated in the World Press Photo contest with 108.059 photographs. An independent jury of international photography experts selected the prizewinning work in 9 different categories, ranging from sports to portraits and from nature to spot news. Prizes were awarded to a total of 54 photographers representing 23 nationalities. The exhibition of the prizewinning work is currently on a world tour of 100 locations in 45 countries. Since a first World Press Photo exhibition was opened in Beirut in 1995, the annual edition has regularly been shown there and in other locations in Lebanon.

Filed under: Documentary photography, Photographers, Photography & Censorship, Photography Shows Tagged: Amit Sha’al, photo controversy, World Press Photo, World Press Photo Beirut