By: Philip Baillargeon
The United Nations has awarded several different journalists with their Press Freedom Prize, ever since the death of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist assassinated in front of the office of his newspaper. This year’s recipient has garnered some controversial comments from the government in his home country of Egypt. His name is Mahmoud Abu Zeid, nicknamed “Shawkan”, and he’s been in prison for over 1,100 days without trial for taking photographs of a public event.
The incident took place August 14th, 2013, during a protest held by various supporters of Egypt’s recently ousted president. The death toll has been estimated to be as high as 1,000 people, yet he was able to save several moments with his camera. He was then arrested, charged with several crimes, including attempted murder, even though several witnesses claim he only carried his camera. He was detained and put in a cramped cell with several other inmates, even testing positive for Hepatitis C. He was denied treatment, according to his lawyer. His mother sees him once a week to bring him food and sneak various other treats, such as fruit or chocolate.
The campaign, “Freedom For Shawkan”, has gained traction as a massive online movement, stemming from its original Facebook page. It is covered in pictures of Mahmoud in his cell, miming camera poses behind bars, and headlines in Arabic of his achievements. Across the page is #FreeShawkan, a call to all who wish to protect the freedom to report on events. Here’s to hoping he is free to take pictures some time soon.