Associated Press Defends Image of Murdered Nova Reveler in Hamas Truck After Award SuperNayr

The Associated Press and University of Missouri defended Ali Mahmud’s photograph of Hamas terrorists parading Nova reveler Shani Louk’s body in the back of a truck on Friday.

The documentation of Hamas’ Oct. 7 brutality was recognized earlier this month by Pictures of the Year International as one the year’s best, prompting swift blowback online and statements from the news agency and journalism school standing by the decision.

Pictures of the Year, a program of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, named the war photograph as part of AP’s first-place win in its Team Picture Story of the Year category.

“The Reynolds Journalism Institute and Pictures of the Year strongly condemn the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, and we continue to mourn the loss of innocent lives and human suffering that is occurring in the ongoing conflict,” POY director Lynden Steele told TheWrap. “Reactions to the Team Picture Story of the Year express the greater emotions related to that conflict.”

Gidi Dar, Sharon Israel

Steele maintained, however, the merit of the image, arguing it captures “the harsh realities of war.”

“This year and every year, the photos in the competition are selected by a panel of professional journalists tasked with identifying compelling representations of the significant news events of the year,” he said. “While we understand the reactions to the pictures, we also believe that photojournalism plays an important role in bringing attention to the harsh realities of war.”

When reached for comment by TheWrap, AP shared a February statement as it related to its freelance photographers’ work during Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.

“Documenting breaking news events around the world – no matter how horrific – is our job. Without AP and other news organizations, the world would not have known what was happening on Oct. 7,” VP of corporate communications Lauren Easton said, responding Feb. 22 to the National Jewish Advocacy Center’s lawsuit over its coverage.

Additionally, the statement addressed allegations that AP and its photographers had advance knowledge of the attacks, as claimed in the lawsuit, saying they “are reckless and create even more potential danger for journalists in the region.” (Read AP’s statement in full here.)

Sharon Israel

That, in part, has been mixed within the outcry over POY’s recognition of Mahmud’s photograph. Questions of how freelance photographers based in Gaza captured images of Hamas’ attack continue to swirl, with some — so far largely unfounded — accusations denouncing photojournalists like Mahmud as being embedded within the terrorist organization.

Responses on social media particularly swelled Thursday and Friday as prominent media critics and Jewish cultural voices criticized POY’s decision as the makings of a “creepy and sinister joke.”

“It is hard to know who is more repellent — @AP for using the product of a ghoul who rode with terrorists and rapists as they slaughtered women and children and then stopped to pose and snap this vision of heartless, diabolic triumph … or the Missouri School of Journalism that is rewarding that repulsive conduct,” British historian and author Simon Sebag Montefiore wrote Friday. “It suggests that both organizations have deep fissures of emptiness where their morality, humanity and indeed taste should be.”

In its official description of Team Picture Story of the Year, POY writes, “This premiere category recognizes the collaborative effort of a photography staff covering a single topic or news story. It is a narrative picture story that consists of images taken as part of a team effort to cover a single issue or news story.”

The official caption of Mahmud’s image read, in part, “Palestinian militants drive back to the Gaza Strip with the body of Shani Louk, a German-Israeli dual citizen, during their cross-border attack.”

Stephanie Kaloi contributed to this report.

Hamas militants approach Israeli border on Oct. 7 (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

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