A prestigious international press photo exhibition in Macau that featured pictures of anti-government protests in Hong Kong was abruptly shut down mid-way, prompting speculation of a deliberate blackout due to the sensitive nature of the images.
The World Press Photo exhibition, which was originally slated to run from September 25 till October 18 in Macau, was abruptly closed last weekend. The government-run Macau Foundation, responsible for hosting the event annually, denied allegations of political pressure and maintained that the event was called off early due to “internal management problems”, The Guardian reported.
However, the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo Foundation has said that the closure of the event could be the result of “external pressure” because of the nature of the images that were displayed. The exhibition featured a series of pictures taken by AFP photographer Nicolas Asfouiri of pro-democracy protestors who had stormed the streets of Hong Kong last year.
“While the reasons for the closing remain unclear, we are following local media reports suggesting that it might be the result of external pressure on the content of the exhibition,” the foundation’s director of exhibitions Laurens Korteweg said, according to The Guardian.
“Supporting the conditions for freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry, freedom of the press is a fundamental part of our work. We regret the premature closing of our annual exhibition in Macao. Our collaboration with the Association Casa de Portugal Macau has always been a positive one and we hope to be able to come back to Macau,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association, the body that co-hosts the event every year, said that if the event was stalled due to political pressure then they would consider it “a serious and worrying incident that signals an erosion of freedom of expression”.
A Special Administrative Region of China, Macau uses the same political model as Hong Kong — “one country, two systems”. However, unlike Hong Kong, the region has not yet witnessed a widespread pro-democracy movement.
This is not the first time an exhibition has suddenly and inexplicably been called off in the region. Earlier this year, a photo exhibition which commemorated the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was banned in Macau.
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