Amit Sha'al's images on the World Press Photo website.
Facing call to censor parts of this year's World Press Photo exhibition, which opened in Beirut, Lebanon, on 12 May, the Dutch organisation has announced its decision "to dismantle and close the entire exhibition."
The decision comes after "the presence of prizewinning work by an Israeli photojournalist in the exhibition had sparked protests locally," says World Press Photo. "The Beirut exhibition organisers 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."
At the centre of the controversy are Amit Sha'al's project A Journey Through Time and Place, which is a series of archive photos set against their present-day backdrops in Israel (the images can be seen on the World Press Photo website). The series won 3rd prize in the Arts and Entertainment category.
According to the Associated Press, protesters objected to the presence of images shot by an Israeli photographer. Following the protests, local authorities asked the organisers to remove Sha'al's images arguing that Lebanon and Israel "are at war."
"The integrity of our exhibition was at stake," says World Press Photo managing director Michiel Munneke. "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."
The World Press Photo exhibition was supposed to remain open until 01 June. 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, according to World Press Photo.
Speaking to the Association Press, Sha'al says that the images were not political. "It's an examination of what was once and what is now. The viewer can reach his or her own conclusion. I have no intention of representing Israel or Israeli policies, many of which I oppose personally. There are dark people on both sides of the fence."
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