National Press Club

National Press Club urges freedom for Shawkan in open letter to Egyptian ambassador

July 27, 2018 | By Kathy Kiely |

On the eve of a scheduled verdict in the long-pending case of the photojournalist Shawkan, the National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute sent an open letter to Egypt’s top diplomat in the United States about the Club’s 2016 Press Freedom award winner:


Ambassador Yasser Reda
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court NW
Washington, DC 20008


July 27, 2018

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

On Saturday, a court in your country is scheduled to deliver a long-delayed verdict in the case of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the photojournalist known as Shawkan. Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence.

Shawkan’s life is not all that is at risk; so is the reputation of your country in the international community.

The 2016 winner of the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, Shawkan has spent five years in prison, in deteriorating health. Arrested while photographing demonstrations in your country on assignment for a British agency, he is one of at least 20 journalists currently behind bars in your country. We urge that they be released immediately and unconditionally.

Egypt has a special relationship with the United States: Your country annually receives more than $1 billion from the taxpayers of this country. We know from public records that your country in recent years has spent millions to cultivate that relationship by lobbying members of Congress.

We can think of no move more certain to damage that relationship than the brutal suppression of free speech, a fundamental human right that is enshrined in the First Amendment of this country’s Constitution.

History has proven, time and time again, that killing the messenger will not kill a story and that the true test of a government’s strength is in its ability to handle dissent and debate.

We are attaching an earlier statement, signed by more than two dozen professional press organizations and human rights groups, urging Egypt to free Shawkan and the other journalists it now holds in prison.

We would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with you at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Andrea Edney
National Press Club

Kathy Kiely
Press Freedom Fellow
NPC Journalism Institute