Shawkan's release five years overdue
11 September 2018
The National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland (NUJ) joins with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to brand the decision of an Egyptian court to free photojournalist Shawkan as "long overdue".
Mahmoud Abou Zeid, better known as Shawkan, winner of the UNESCO/Guillermo-Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2018, had faced the death penalty but was sentenced on Saturday 8 September to 5 years in prison. Having already served that time since his arrest in 2013 he is now to be freed.
The union welcomed Shawkan's imminent return to his family and friends but condemned his long imprisonment simply for working as a journalist.
Shawkan was arrested in Cairo on 14 August 2013 while covering a police crackdown on protesters in Rabaa Square, also known as the Rabaa Massacre.
The freelance journalist was allegedly charged with multiple offenses including "damaging national unity", "terrorizing citizens" and "attempted murder of police officers".
Before the verdict on 8 September, it has been reported that Shawkan, against whom no evidence of the charges of wrongdoing has never been produced, suffered from chronic anemia and hepatitis C and from mistreatment by Egyptian officials.
The NUJ and IFJ considers Shawkan’s condemnation unfair and a heavy price to pay for just doing his job.
In March this year, IFJ president Philippe Leruth wrote a letter to Egypt President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in which he expressed grave concerns over Shawkan and other journalists’ detention and called on the Egyptian authorities to stop arresting and intimidating journalists. The day before the verdict, the NUJ and IFJ renewed calls to free Shawkan.
Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:
"Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid ‘Shawkan’ will soon be free. It is long overdue - five years late. The IFJ is delighted about his imminent release, but does not forget the five years he served in prison for doing his job as a journalist: to inform his fellow citizens. This judgement is a threatening message for journalists working in Egypt and therefore, an attack on press freedom."
The NUJ and IFJ are calling on the Egyptian authorities to release all the remaining journalists in jail including Mahmoud Hussain and Ismael Iskandarani.