Brandishing a gun, his face contorted with rage, the shocking image of an off-duty Turkish policeman assassinating the Russian envoy to Turkey won the prestigious World Press Photo Award yesterday.
Judges praised the courage of Burhan Ozbilici, a photographer for Associated Press, who stood his ground as policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, pumped nine bullets into ambassador Andrei Karlov at the opening of an Ankara exhibition.
Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he opened fire, vowing that those responsible for events in Syria would be held accountable.
“From the moment I heard the shots I knew this was a historic moment,” Ozbilici said. “I knew I had to do my job. As a journalist, I couldn’t just run away to save my skin.”
The vivid photo 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 said they had had a tough job to choose the winner from more than 80 400 images submitted by 5 034 photographers from 125 countries.
“It was a very difficult decision, but in the end we felt the picture of the year was an explosive image that really spoke to the hatred of our times,” jury member Mary Calvert said.
Ozbilici, who has worked for AP since 1989, said he always tried 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”.
Jury member Joao Silva said: “This image to me talks of everything that is happening across the world. It is the face of hatred.”