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Shani Louk: Hamas victim's father defends award-winning photo of her body as 'symbol' of an era

A woman with dreadlocks, dramatic makeup, and a piece of fabric draped over her head.
Shani Louk.shanukkk/Instagram
  • The father of a woman killed by Hamas has defended an award-winning image of her.

  • The Associated Press photo showed Shani Louk half naked and face down in the back of a Hamas pickup.

  • This article contains an image that may cause distress.

The father of a woman who was killed during Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel has defended the decision to present a prestigious journalism award to a freelancer who photographed his daughter's dead body.

The Associated Press freelancer Ali Mahmud won the Reynolds Journalism Institute's award for the team picture story of the year for the image, which showed Shani Louk's lifeless body splayed in the back of a pickup truck and surrounded by Hamas militants.

Louk, a German tattoo artist, had been attending an outdoor "festival for peace" party near the Urim kibbutz when Hamas fighters targeted the area in a terrorist attack.

The dispute over the image comes against the backdrop of an ongoing information war that has included pro-Israel commentators questioning the integrity of freelance photographers working in Gaza.

Meanwhile, accusations of disinformation and image doctoring have abounded on social media and fueled fears over the use of AI as a propaganda tool.

The award of the prize to Mahmud's photo re-ignited some of these talking points and led to a strong backlash on social media.

Hamas militants drive back to the Gaza Strip with the body of Shani Louk.
The award-winning image.AP Photo/Ali Mahmud

The official X, formerly Twitter, profile for the state of Israel appeared to react to the news of the award by sharing several images of Louk alive and smiling, writing: "This is how we want Shani Louk to be remembered."

Hen Mazzig, an Israeli writer, hit out on X at the decision, saying that the image "dehumanizes" Louk.

"The biggest photojournalism competition in the world decided to trample on the family's wishes in favor of giving a photo of Shani's mutilated body a prestigious award," he wrote.

"Photos showing violence and death can be newsworthy or important when they humanize the dead or galvanize the public," he added. "The 'winning' photo does neither; it only further dehumanizes Shani, retraumatizes her family and legitimizes Hamas's actions under the guise of journalistic neutrality."

'This is one of the most important photos in the last 50 years'

But Louk's father, Nissim Louk, told the Israeli news outlet Ynet that he was glad the photo won the award.

"It's good that the photo won the prize," he said. "This is one of the most important photos in the last 50 years. These are some of the photos that shape human memory."

Nissim added that the image of his daughter and those of Noa Argamani being taken hostage by Hamas militants on a motorcycle were images that "symbolize this era."

"I think it's a good thing to use it to inform the future," he said. "If I start crying, what will come of it? This is history. In 100 years, they will look and know what happened here. I travel the world, and everyone knows who Shani is."

It is now six months since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, which broke out after Hamas' October 7 attacks that killed about 1,200 people and saw around 240 others kidnapped and taken hostage in Gaza.

Israel responded to the attacks with relentless airstrikes and a ground invasion of the territory. More than 32,000 Palestinians have so far been killed, Al Jazeera reported.

Israel announced on Sunday that it had reduced the number of troops in the south of Gaza, with just one brigade remaining there. A military spokesperson gave no details on the reasoning for the move, per Reuters.

It comes as Israel faces mounting international pressure over the killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers on Monday.

Read the original article on Business Insider