A formal response from the World Press Photo Foundation.
Let me cut to the conclusion — this article repeats allegations that have already been independently investigated. When the evidence from that investigation was presented to a post-award jury, that jury concluded it did not conclusively substantiate the allegations so there was insufficient evidence declare a clear breach of our contest entry rules.
For those coming to this story for the first time, let me explain the process that led to that conclusion.
Following receipt of an email on 14 February 2017 from Ramin Talaie alleging one of the Long-Term Project winners, Hossein Fatemi, was engaged in unethical practices, we began investigating the relevant issues raised in the document attached to the email. This article is a facsimile of that document. It was what prompted our actions. So it marks the beginning rather than the end of this issue.
The investigation concerned those photographs discussed above that were also in Hossein’s story as submitted to our contest. They are the only photographs that could be our focus. The process we followed was in accordance with our judging procedures, which are transparent on our website. In particular, we followed the procedure for handling issues that arise after an award has been made, as detailed on page 30 of the Judging Procedures handbook, which is available online for all to see.
On 15 February we commissioned Santiago Lyon to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations. Santiago is a greatly respected figure in photojournalism, with some thirty years experience in the field, and a comprehensive commitment to ethics. We asked him to gather as much evidence as he could, principally by interviewing people living in Iran and elsewhere, who were present when the photos in Hossein’s winning story that were identified by you as having issues, were taken. Santiago conducted hours of interviews, in addition to speaking at length with Hossein and Ramin.
It is important to note that Ramin was not present when any of the photos he criticises in the winning story were taken, so he does not have direct experience of the circumstances he discusses. In contrast, the investigation included interviews with people who were actually there when the disputed photos in the contest entry were taken.
Santiago presented summaries of his interviews and other information to the post-award jury for consideration. The post-award jury then deliberated for some time on the accusations in light of the evidence that presented.
This was a difficult case to investigate and decide upon and we could only judge the images that were part of the contest. We have been very precise in following the established procedures, Santiago’s investigation was thorough, and the post-award jury treated both the allegations and the evidence provided to them with equal seriousness.
There is often a lot of social media commentary on issues like this, and we see it already in response to this article. Too often that discussion involves personal issues and disputes and takes place without good evidence from independent sources. By commissioning an independent investigation to inform our post-award jury we have done everything we can to establish what evidence exists relating to the photographs in Hossein’s story, and that alone was the basis for the jury’s conclusion.
If in future additional, compelling evidence comes to light then this should be shared directly with us and it will be rigorously examined too. But this article is just a repeat of the already investigated allegations, so does not give us anything new to consider.
It is just not possible to easily judge a case that has so much of a ‘he said versus she said’ quality about it. This is also basically the response we have had from publications that published the work and conducted their own scrutiny of Hossein’s work. They all came up with a similar result. All I can say is that we did our utmost best to find answers to questions. Based on the answers we could find it was judged. Those are the facts.