National Press Club

National Press Club award-winner Shawkan facing death sentence

March 8, 2018 | By Kathy Kiely |

The National Press Club and its non-profit Journalism Institute condemn Egypt’s effort to intimidate the press by threatening a photojournalist with death.

A winner of the Club’s 2016 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, learned this week that prosecutors in his home country are seeking the maximum penalty — death by hanging — against him. The Egyptian photographer has been in prison for more than four years. Late last year, he turned 30 behind bars. His lawyer says he suffers from hepatitis C and has been denied treatment.

Shawkan was one of a number of journalists arrested in August, 2013 while covering anti-government demonstrations in Egypt. While foreign journalists have been released, Shawkan was not. Prosecutors’ request for the death penalty comes despite widespread protests against his detention by human rights and press freedom organizations.

“This is the latest indication that threats against the press are becoming a worsening worldwide problem,” said Club President Andrea Edney. Next week, the Club will host a Sunshine Week panel to discuss the global “gathering clouds.”

“It’s particularly disturbing to see this happening in a country that is an ally of the United States, and one that receives considerable aid from U.S. taxpayers,” added Barbara Cochran, president of the NPC Journalism Institute.

The Club called for the case of Shawkan and other journalists detained in Egypt to be added to the agenda last year, when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited the White House. This week, while his own State Department expressed concern over the journalists’ detentions, President Donald Trump consulted with the Egyptian president. According to a White House readout of the call, press freedom was not discussed.

Contact: Kathy Kiely, National Press Club Journalism Institute Press Freedom Fellow, 202-256-4748