Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

World Press Photo 2012: Speech on the occasion of the opening of the World Press Photo Exhibition


Speech by Ambassador Schaper on the occasion of the opening of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2012 on 15 August

Dear colleagues, distinguished guests,

It is with great honor and pleasure that I stand here before you today.

For many years now, the Netherlands has been a proud sponsor of the World Press Photo exhibition here at the United Nations in New York.

We have always been a strong supporter of this event, convinced of the inspirational role of photojournalism, and the importance of freedom of expression, of which the exhibition is in our view symbol.

The exhibition has traditionally been held during the quiet summer. But unlike the past years, it seems that quiet summers no longer exist today.

I recall standing here – at the very same place – last year, when the Arab spring was in full swing.

This summer, there are the horrible images from Syria, which so drastically contrast with the beautiful images we got to see from the Olympic Games.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The photos exhibited here today, are not just beautiful art; this exposition also serves a higher aim.

These photos not only reveal the truth; they also communicate that truth beyond borders, because their language is universal. They make us – citizens and politicians alike - see the world, rather than just look at it.

Images not only say more than a thousand words, they also fulfill an essential function within democratic society. They confront us with realities,, which deserve our full concern and attention, and force us to consider how to deal with them.


At this opening of the World Press Photo we want also to draw attention to the people who make these pictures, and who write about what they witness under the harsh conditions they work in.

It is intolerable, that so many journalists are killed, threatened, harassed, arrested and detained each year. According to the International News Safety Institute, this year alone, already 78 journalists and media staff were killed worldwide; and it is alarming to note that the annual number of casualties is rising. The death of Marie Colvin and colleagues is a tragic example. 

This worrying trend also stood central in today’s panel discussion, which preceded this official opening.

(NB: hier ruimte om eventueel punten uit de panel discussie aan te halen)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Acts of violence against journalists are unacceptable. These acts have the sole, and illegitimate purpose, of silencing the voices of society’s messengers; and through that, the voices and the choices of the people. 

Journalists, especially those operating in war zones, and areas of conflict and natural disaster, have often demonstrated great courage.

UN Security Council Resolution 1738 of 2006, which condemns international attacks against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel during armed conflict, has sent a strong message for their protection.

Today I would like to reiterate that message. Journalists deserve full protection. Not only in wording, but also in practice.

States have a double responsibility in this respect. On the one hand they have to maintain a safe environment, in which journalists can operate freely. On the other hand, they bear the duty to investigate and prosecute those responsible for planning and perpetrating violent acts against journalists.

Dear colleagues, distinguished guests,

I wish to thank World Press Photo for the organization of yet another wonderful exhibition. We will continue to support your work and the mission to which you are so strongly committed.

Thank you.