KARACHI, PAKISTAN – Afghani Pulitzer Prize-winner Massoud Hossaini was elected the first president of the new South Asia Photojournalists Association (SAPA) on Sunday, November 11, at the group’s inaugural meeting in Karachi, Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf attended on the first full day of the conference and gifted SAPA around $20,000 as a token of his support of the free press.
Representatives from each country covered by SAPA (India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan) gave presentations on a variety of subjects from their own work, a history of the press, and examinations of the political situation in their countries.
Former NPPA student delegate Max Becherer, a freelance photojournalist who is now based in Islamabad, Pakistan, represented NPPA at the meeting. Becherer brought greetings from NPPA and a pledge of support from NPPA president Sean D. Elliot. He also presented to the attendees on the topic of safety in conflict zones, and he was invited to make his presentation to several press clubs around Pakistan.
“It is an honor to support this fledgling organization as they come into being with a mission so strongly allied with the NPPA’s,” said Elliot. “The NPPA stands ready to support SAPA in their work in any way that we can.”
Hossaini gave the keynote speech on Sunday to a large audience of photojournalists from Pakistan. At the end of his description of the deadly and emotionally-draining day that he made his Pulitzer spot news image during a suicide bomb attack during a religious festival, Hosini gave a personal message to the audience.
“It is rare that we as neighbors have a chance to talk to each other about these events (violence) and represent ourselves and our emotions about what is happening in both of our countries,” Hossaini said. “We are always looking west to make agreements and solve problems but between neighbors we have not settled any agreements. No one will come from outside to solve our problems. We have to speak for ourselves. And we can do this.”
SAPA grew out of the 2008 “International Symposium on Photojournalism” held in Karachi, which was organized by the Pakistan-Japan Cultural Association, Sindh (PJCA) in collaboration with the Department of Information, Government of Sindh, Consulate General of Japan, and the Japan Foundation.
Mohammad Azmat Shigeyuki Ataka, a former cultural attaché from Japan who remained in Pakistan after retiring from his diplomatic post, has been a leading voice for the creation of SAPA.
In addition to sending Becherer to the assembly and pledging ongoing support, the NPPA has offered input on the new association’s governance.
Becherer, a graduate of San Jose State University, served as student delegate to the NPPA Board of Directors in 1999-2000. He was a staff photographer at The Arizona Daily Star after graduating from San Jose State University and has been a Polaris represented freelancer covering the Middle East and South Asia including several tours in Iraq for the New York Times for the last eight years.