The World Press Photo exhibition runs from January 17 to February 8 in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

By Floris van der Laan & Sietze Vermeulen
Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco

A group of Dutch photographers came together in 1955 to expose the world to their work, focusing on accuracy, diversity, and transparency. They organized a competition to find the best visual journalism. Forty-two photographers from 11 countries participated with 300 pictures, and a jury from neighboring countries selected Mogens von Haven as the winner of the first World Press Photo competition.

In 1956 a jury member from the communist Eastern Bloc was added, showcasing the focus on press freedom and diversity. Now more than 60 years later, World Press Photo is a world-renowned institution that organizes exhibitions in over 40 countries and attracts more than 4 million visitors.

As the Netherlands celebrates 75 years of freedom after World War II, the World Press Photo exhibition returns to Phoenix, Arizona. From January 17 to February 8, the exhibition is open to the public in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The exhibition is made possible by multiple sponsors, including the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the United States.

Gerbert Kunst, Consul General of the Netherlands in San Francisco

“I am very proud that we can bring this exhibition to Phoenix, especially this year,” said Gerbert Kunst, Consul General of the Netherlands in San Francisco. “The visual stories showcase the importance of press freedom and the freedom of expression, ideals both the Netherlands and the United States firmly believe in. Without the courageous journalists and photographers who are presented at the World Press Photo Exhibition, there would be no free press. And without free press, there would not be a free society that we live in today. And that’s something we celebrate this year.”

The 2019 winner is American photo journalist John Moore, with a picture of the crying girl at the US-Mexico border.

Siebe van der Zee, organizer of World Press Photo in Phoenix, is a strong supporter of visual stories that connect the world to stories that matter. “The importance of photojournalism cannot be overrated,” van der Zee said. “It provides an impartial view of a split-second moment in time.”

This year’s winning pictures span eight categories selected from 78,810 photographs made by 4,738 photojournalists from all over the world.

“Two things are fundamental to the overall commitment of World Press Photo: demonstrating freedom of the press and accurately showcasing global happenings through visual art,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “Both of these tenets are more important now than ever before. It is a true testament to Phoenix’s dynamic arts and culture community that the flagship exhibition is coming to our downtown.”

World Press Freedom Conference 2020

The Dutch government supports press freedom in the Netherlands, resulting in a fourth-place ranking on the reporters without borders global index. It supports journalists in developing countries and sponsors local radio stations. In 2017 the Netherlands co-organized the World Press Photo exhibition in Washington, D.C.

“You see that many parts of the world freedom of expression is under threat,” said Consul General Kunst. “The number of imprisoned journalists has risen sharply over the past few years. We believe it is important to give journalists and photographers center stage. No press freedom namely means no access to reliable and independent information. A picture doesn’t lie.”

From April 22-24, 2020, the Netherlands will host the World Press Freedom Conference at the World Forum in the Hague, the city known for its role in international peace and justice. Focusing on the theme “Journalism without fear or favor,” the conference will demonstrate the importance of protecting freedom of expression and the safety of all our journalists.

As press freedom and independent media cannot be taken for granted, the World Press Freedom Conference in the Hague will share the message that journalists must be able to do their work without fear or favor.