Photograph of Russian ambassador assassination wins top prize at World Press Photo contest

Burhan Ozbilici said of the moment: 'I was afraid, but I did not panic'

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The Independent Culture

A terrifying photograph taken moments after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has been named Photo of the Year in the 2017 World Press Photo contest.

An Associated Press photographer took the photo featuring Andrey Karlov on the floor after being shot by 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas. The gunman went on to shout "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria!" and was killed during the ensuing 15-minute shootout with police. 

Speaking to The New York Times, photographer Burhan Ozbilici revealed he was only in attendance because the conference was on the way home.

Ozbilici's award winning photograph (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)

Ozbilici said of the moment: “I was afraid, but I did not panic. I’m a journalist and I had to stand and do my job even if I got hit or killed. At that moment I tried to represent not just A.P. but all good independent journalists.”

The photograph has caused some controversy among photojournalists: while the contest’s managing director said the image was visually strong and a testament to “a brave photographer,” jury chairman Stuart Franklin was worried the win may be “amplifying a terrorist message in some way”.

“I had a moral concern,” Franklin told the aforementioned publication. “I don’t think we can forget that this was a premeditated, staged murder at a press conference. It seemed to me to reaffirm the compact between martyrdom and publicity.”

Over 5,000 photographers submitted 80,408 photos to be considered for the top honour, with Franklin looking at every single one. The chairman, however, did not vote for the winning image.

Other publications with winning photographs included Getty Images, The Washington Post and The New York Times.