HRF congratulates Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, commonly known as Shawkan, for winning UNESCO's Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize for his fearless reporting during anti-regime protests, and in recognition of the injustices he has suffered under Egypt's authoritarian regime. The award ceremony will take place on World Press Freedom Day on May 2.
Shawkan was initially arrested in August 2013 while covering the violent dispersal of an anti-regime protest in Cairo's Rabaa Square. He has been in detention for four and a half years on fabricated charges, which include "attempted murder" and "membership of a banned organization," in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. In February 2016, HRF filed an individual complaint to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention requesting that it launch an investigation into his case. A month later, the U.N. ruled in favor of HRF’s individual complaint and declared Shawkan's arrest and deprivation of liberty arbitrary under international law.
The Egyptian government has ignored the U.N.'s decision, and Shawkan remains in detention today. On March 3, 2018, prosecutors requested that Shawkan be sentenced to death by hanging, along with more than 700 other defendants. HRF hopes that this award will draw enough attention to Shawkan's case to prevent this enormous violation of civil rights from taking place.