PERPIGNAN, FRANCE (AFP) – A Myanmar photographer won the top award on Saturday (Aug 4) at photojournalism’s biggest annual festival for his coverage of the troubled nation’s pro-democracy protests and bloody military crackdown.
The photographer, who remained unnamed for security reasons, scooped the Visa d’Or for News, the most prestigious award handed out at the Visa Pour L’Image festival in Perpignan, south-western France.
Mr Mikko Takkunen, the Asia photo editor for The New York Times, collected the prize on behalf of the photographer.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a Feb 1 coup, with near-daily protests and a huge civil disobedience movement.
“He is probably the strongest photographer in the country. He is extremely happy and honoured to win this prize,” Mr Takkunen said.
Mr Takkunen said the photographer dedicated the prize to his peers in his country who are working under extremely difficult conditions.
His photographs portray civilian protesters armed with stones, soldiers firing live bullets and grieving families mourning their dead.
Across Myanmar, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the ongoing military crackdown, according to an advocacy group.
The press has been squeezed as the junta tries to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling Internet access and revoking the licences of local media outlets.
The anonymous photographer said in a message that he was “on the streets every day since Feb 1”.
“I encountered many difficulties, working between bullet shots, tear gas and deafening grenades,” he said.
“On the ground, we stopped working with helmets marked ‘Press’ as we realised the soldiers were targeting photographers.”
Among the others nominated was Greek photographer Angelos Tzortzinis from Agence France-Presse for his work on the last days that migrants and asylum-seekers spent at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, which was cleared after devastating fires.
Also nominated was American Erin Schaff from The New York Times for photographs depicting the storming of the United States Capitol in Washington.
Indian Danish Siddiqui from Reuters was nominated for his work on the health crisis following the coronavirus pandemic in his country.
Mr Siddiqui was killed in July while covering fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces.
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