Photo captures 'face of hatred'

Image of Turkish cop who killed Russian envoy wins World Press Photo Award

THE HAGUE • The shocking image of an off-duty Turkish police officer standing next to the body of the Russian envoy to Turkey, whom he had killed, won the prestigious World Press Photo Award yesterday.

Judges praised the courage and bravery of Mr Burhan Ozbilici, a photographer for Associated Press (AP), who stood his ground as 22-year-old policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas pumped nine bullets into Ambassador Andrei Karlov at the opening of a photography exhibition in Ankara.

"From the moment I heard the shots, I knew this was a historic moment, very serious," Mr Ozbilici told Agence France-Presse."I knew I had to do my job. As a journalist, I couldn't just run away to save my skin."

The vivid photo of the gunman, brandishing his weapon, his face contorted with rage, was to go viral around the world, and has been viewed some 18 million times.

The judges from the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam acknowledged that they had a tough job choosing the 2017 winner from 80,408 images submitted by 5,034 photographers from 125 countries.

"It was a very, very difficult decision, but in the end we felt that the picture of the year was an explosive image that really spoke to the hatred of our times," said jury member Mary Calvert.

  • Singapore museum to display winning snaps

    The World Press Photo Foundation has held its annual photo contest since 1955, attracting entries from photojournalists and freelance photographers from around the world.

    The non-profit, Amsterdam- based organisation's objective is to develop and promote visual journalism.

    This is one of the most prestigious awards in photojournalism and multimedia storytelling, and the winning photo of the year carries a cash prize of €10,000 (S$15,000). In addition, worldwide sponsor Canon will present the winning photographer with a selection of camera equipment.

    See the winning photographs from the World Press Photo 2016 (WPP16) exhibition from March 3 to 26 at the National Museum of Singapore, the venue partner for the exhibition, brought to you by The Straits Times. The museum is open from 10am to 7pm daily. Admission to WPP16 is free.

Mr Ozbilici, who covered the failed coup bid in Turkey and has carried out missions in Syria, Libya and Egypt, said he always tries to be ready for difficult tests, "to have the courage to confront a world which has been made rotten by the dishonest and corrupt, in order to try to do some good". He said he was sorry for the death of the envoy, whom he described as a "natural, kind, sincere man" whose death was a direct consequence of the "Syrian catastrophe".

"This photo marked an important moment in the history of Turkey, especially in relations with Turkey," said Mr Ozbilici, who has worked for AP since 1989.

Jury members agreed that his photo captured an important moment in time.

"Right now, I see the world marching towards the edge of an abyss," The Guardian reported juror Joao Silva as saying. "This is a man who has clearly reached a breaking point and his statement is to assassinate someone who he really blames, a country that he blames, for what is going on elsewhere in the region.

"I feel that is what is happening in Europe, what is happening in America, what is happening in the Far East, Middle East, Syria, and this image to me talks of it. It is the face of hatred."



World Press Photo of the Year and First prize for Spot News (Stories)

By Burhan Ozbilici, Associated Press

Mevlut Mert Altintas shouting after shooting Mr Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, on Dec 19 last year. Altintas, a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, wounded three other people before being killed by officers in a shoot-out.


First prize for Sports (Singles)

By Tom Jenkins, The Guardian

Jockey Nina Carberry flying off her horse, Sir Des Champs, as they fall at The Chair fence during the Grand National steeplechase, on day three of the Grand National Meeting at Aintree Racecourse on April 9 last year in Liverpool, England.


First prize for General News (Stories)

By Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Police operatives at an alley in Manila, capital of the Philippines, where a man, Mr Romeo Joel Torres Fontanilla, 37, had been killed by two unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles on Oct 11 last year.


First prize for Contemporary Issues (Singles)

By Jonathan Bachman, Reuters

Lone activist Ieshia Evans standing her ground while offering her hands for arrest as she is charged by riot police during a protest against police brutality outside the Baton Rouge Police Department in Louisiana in the United States on July 9 last year. Ms Evans, a 28-year-old Pennsylvania nurse and mother of one, travelled to Baton Rouge to protest against the shooting of Mr Alton Sterling. Mr Sterling was a 37-year-old black man and father of five, who was shot at close range by two white police officers. The shooting, captured in a multitude of cellphone videos, aggravated the unrest coursing through the US in recent years over the use of excessive force by police, particularly against black men.


First prize for Nature (Singles)

By Francis Perez, European Pressphoto Agency

A sea turtle entangled in a fishing net swimming off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, on June 8 last year. Sea turtles are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Unattended fishing gear is responsible for many sea turtle deaths.


First prize, Contemporary Issues

By Amber Bracken, Canada

A man being treated with milk of magnesia after being pepper sprayed by police at a blockade on Highway 1806 in North Dakota in the US on Nov 20 last year. For nearly 10 months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies camped out in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing their territory and threatening their water supply. The estimated US$3.78 billion (S$5.4 billion) project, backed by Energy Transfer Partners, is nearly complete, covering almost 1,900km. In military vehicles and body armour, police used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannon against the protesters, and have been accused of inhumane treatment of those arrested.


First prize for Long-Term Projects

By Valery Melnikov, Rossiya Segodnya

People escaping from a fire at a house destroyed by an air attack in Luhanskaya village in Ukraine. Ongoing conflict in Ukraine between rebels and the government army led the country to full-scale hostilities. Summer became a bloody time for the city of Luhansk, whose residents were besieged for months and left without electricity or water, and with constant shelling overhead. According to the Federal Migration Service, over 800,000 Ukrainians were displaced. Despite several ceasefires and suggestions for resolving the conflict, neither side is ready to lay down arms.

See more winning photos.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Photo captures 'face of hatred''. Print Edition | Subscribe