A young man recites poetry amid a crowd of chanting pro-democracy demonstrators whose mobile phones illuminate the scene. Yasuyoshi Chiba’s image “Straight Voice” was selected by the World Press Photo Foundation as 2020 World Press Photo of Year in its 63rd annual World Press Photo Contest.
The photo was made July 19, 2019, in Khartoum, Sudan, in the wake of a military massacre of nonviolent protestors calling for civilian rule. At the time the photo was made, authorities had imposed an internet shutdown and electricity blackout to make it more difficult for protestors to communicate and convene.
“This moment was the only peaceful group protest I encountered during my stay,” says Chiba, who is Agence France-Presse’s chief photographer for East Africa and the Indian Ocean, based in Nairobi, Kenya. “I felt their undefeated solidarity like burning embers that remain to flare up again.” By August 2019, the pro-democracy movement had reached a power-sharing agreement with the Sudan military.
Lekgetho Makola, the photo contest’s jury chair, liked that the photo offers inspiration in the midst of conflict. “We see this young person, who is not shooting, who is not throwing a stone, but reciting a poem. It’s acknowledging but also voicing a sense of hope.”