Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (popularly known as Shawkan) has won the 2018 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. Zeid is an Egyptian photojournalist who was arrested in Cairo in 2013 for photographing the Rabaa massacre.
Each year, the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, “honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.”
To summarize the incident: Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, had been removed from office by the military. This resulted in a six week sit-in by supporters (the Muslim Brotherhood) of the ousted president. The violent dispersal of the protest by security forces resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Zeid was arrested, along with two other journalists. Zeid has been in jail since and is reportedly facing the death penalty.
“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” UNESCO jury president Maria Ressa said in the statement.
The Egyptian government was not happy about Unesco’s decision. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry criticized the organization for honoring a defendant facing terrorism charges and said that they shouldn’t get involvement in political issues.
The prize is being awarded on May 2nd in Ghana for World Press Freedom Day. The theme of this year’s conference is Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.
The Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created in 1997 and is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza who was the editor of the Colombian Newspaper El Espectador. He openly criticized the country’s powerful drug lords, which resulted in his murder in Bogata in 1986.
Cover Photo from the Freedom For Shawkan Facebook page