National Press Club

National Press Club calls for release of award-winning Egyptian journalist

June 26, 2018 | By Kathy Kiely | kkiely@press.org

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who works under the name Shawkan, was arrested nearly five years ago while taking pictures of anti-government protests in Cairo.

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who works under the name Shawkan, was arrested nearly five years ago while taking pictures of anti-government protests in Cairo.

Photo/Image: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

Contact: Kathy Kiely, National Press Club Journalism Institute Press Freedom Fellow, kkiely@press.org

UPDATE 6/27: The National Press Foundation has signed onto this letter.

WASHINGTON, June 26 —The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists and more than 20 professional journalism and human rights organizations, on Tuesday urged U.S. officials to help secure the immediate and unconditional release of Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who works under the name Shawkan.

Arrested nearly five years ago while taking pictures of anti-government protests in Cairo, Shawkan is set to be sentenced June 30 by an Egyptian court. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

“Egypt annually receives more than $1 billion aid, funded by the U.S. taxpayers,” said National Press Club President Andrea Edney. “As a country that enshrines freedom of speech and freedom of the press in its Constitution, the United States needs to deliver a message to its ally: Photojournalism is not a crime.”

Shawkan’s case has been championed by a wide range of respected international freedom of speech advocates. The 31-year-old photographer was honored in 2016 with the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award. This year, he won the UNESCO Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.

Shawkan is one of at least 20 journalists now in detention in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In its 2017 Human Rights Report, the U.S. State Department highlighted his case and raised concerns about Egypt’s “limits on the freedom of expression” and “restrictions on the press, internet and academic freedom.”

Today’s public statement follows a months-long behind-the-scenes campaign by the Press Club on behalf of its 2016 Press Freedom Award winner. The Club and the Journalism Institute have written to Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda, Vice President Mike Pence, several U.S. firms that lobby on Egypt’s behalf as well as several key senators about this case.

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club has more than 3,100 members worldwide representing nearly every major news organization. Through its nonprofit Journalism Institute, it provides professional training for reporters and communicators and advocates for press freedom worldwide.

Joint Statement:

Click here to view or download the joint statement. (PDF)

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