National Press Club

National Press Club honors two photographers with Press Freedom Awards

June 27, 2016 | By John M. Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

The National Press Club is honoring two photographers, one of them American and the other Egyptian, with its annual Press Freedom Award, the Club announced Monday.

The winners of the 2016 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award are Tim Tai, a U.S. student photographer who stood up last fall to an angry crowd at the University of Missouri, and Mahmoud Abou Zeid, alias Shawkan, an Egyptian photographer who has been jailed since 2013.

Each year, the Club honors through its Aubuchon award people who embody the heart of journalism: the courage to report what some don’t want to hear and to do so even in trying circumstances. The Club selects U.S. and international Aubuchon honorees each year.

“These two photographers, in widely different circumstances and parts of the world, both remind us of the courage and perseverance that undergird excellent reporting and that keep us fighting for press freedom,” said Club President Thomas Burr.

The U.S. winner, Tai, gained the world’s attention in a viral video last fall. The video showed Tai as he was surrounded by a hostile crowd seeking to prevent him from photographing protesters on a public space at the University of Missouri. Tai handled the throng with calm grace, and he articulated the importance of bearing witness to the protest. Then he proceeded to do his job.

“At a time when forces on both the left and the right are making reporters' jobs difficult in ways great and small, Tai demonstrated and gave voice to the need for an impartial observer,” Burr said.

The international winner, Shawkan, is a freelance photographer who has been detained in Egypt since he was taken into custody three years ago for photographing clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo. He has been accused of several crimes the Club considers to be trumped up but no charges have been filed. He is said to be afflicted with Hepatitis C and reportedly is in failing health.

“Shawkan's case exemplifies the draconian way Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the press,” Burr said. “Egypt is one of the world’s top jailers of news professionals, and the situation there is not improving.”

The Cairo government receives more than $1 billion a year in U.S. military aid.

The John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award is named for a former National Press Club president who was an ardent advocate of press freedom.

The 2016 Aubuchon awards will be presented during the annual Fourth Estate Award dinner in the Club’s ballroom on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. The Fourth Estate Award, which honors a lifetime of achievement in journalism, is going this year to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the Club works to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.

Contact: John M. Donnelly, chairman, NPC Press Freedom Committee: 202 746 6020; jdonnelly@cq.com.