The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today renewed its call for the immediate release of Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as “Shawkan” on the eve of a verdict in his case which is expected tomorrow 8 September in Cairo. Zeid has been behind bars for over 5 years following his arrest in 2013.
Shawkan is one among more than 700 defendants in a political mass trial in Cairo for whom the “maximum penalty” – death by hanging – was requested by the prosecution on 3 March 2018.He was honoured with the UNESCO/Guillermo-Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2018.
The photojournalist was arrested in Cairo, on 14 August 2013, during an assignment for the now-dissolved British photo agency Demotix, when he was covering police crackdown on protesters in Rabaa Square. The freelance journalist was allegedly charged with multiple accounts including “damaging national unity”, “terrorising citizens” and “attempted murder of police officers”. It has been reported that Shawkan, against whom no evidence of the charges of wrong doing has never been produced, is in poor health and suffers from chronic anaemia and hepatitis C.
In March this year IFJ president Philippe Leruth wrote a letter to Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in which he expressed grave concern over Shawkan and others journalists’ detention and called on Egyptian authorities to stop arresting and intimidating journalists.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger said:
“The entire journalism community is gravely concerned for the wellbeing of Shawkan who has endured more than five years in jail despite the failure of the authorities to proof his guilt at trial. The mere fact that his may be facing a death penalty for reporting the truth is a devastating blow to press freedom. This should never happen. We demand President Adbel Fattah El-Sisi to do his utmost so that all charges against Shawcan are dropped and our colleague is set free immediately.”