Keynote speech by Mazen Darwish

Mazen Darwish addresses the audience of the 2016 Awards Ceremony during the 2016 Awards Days. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

All the thanks and honour for giving me the chance to be here with you while honouring the world's best visual journalists. Your honouring to these colleagues, who prove their distinguishment and constant courage in capturing the truth while others run away, reflects your great committment to the value of freedom, especially freedom of speech.

Dear friends: when I was in prison, in an underground room with almost 100 other prisoners and during our daily torture sessions, I always dreamed of having a camera in my hand. Only an image could describe and tell the real story. When I was out, I heard about how pictures of tortured and killed prisoners had been smuggled out of Syria, the so-called Caesar photos, I was at peace. At least these souls won't die twice; once with the torture and once with losing the truth.

In 2011, the Syrian president said in an interview: I am not angry at demonstrators on the streets, I am annoyed with whoever takes a picture and publishes it on the Internet.

In short, this is the truth. Dictators know that people are craving for freedom and want to get rid of them. So what makes them worry is the spread of information. That is why they kill witnesses and bury the truth.

Today when I look at your winning pictures and stories, I feel proud and I laugh at the dictator's stupidity. I realize they failed, and your belief in the right of visual journalism and freedom of speech is stronger than all their weapons. There is no jail that can imprison the free word, nor is there a siege tight enough that can prevent the spread of information. Our friends in besieged Douma and everywhere in the world have proven that, despite the high price some of them have paid.

My fellow photographers, when you press the button on your camera, you document the moment. You save the time from getting lost. Don't let that moment escape, for we lose a story with it; we lose the secrets hidden in the eyes of those who need their story to be told, of those who want you to tell the truth.

Posted April 23 2016

About The World Press Photo Foundation

We are a global platform connecting professionals and audiences through trustworthy visual journalism and storytelling. Founded in 1955 when a group of Dutch photographers organized a contest to share their work with an international audience, the competition has grown into the world’s most prestigious photography award and our mission has expanded. We encourage diverse accounts of the world that present stories with different perspectives. We exhibit those stories to a worldwide audience, educate the profession and the public on their making, and encourage debate on their meaning.

The World Press Photo Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We receive support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and are sponsored worldwide by Canon.