Egypt de­nounces nom­i­na­tion of Shawkan for UNESCO’s press free­dom prize

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist has been in pre-trial de­ten­tion since 2013

The Daily News Egypt - - News - By Sarah El-Sheikh

The Egyp­tian Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs ex­pressed deep re­gret over the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific, and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO)’s hon­our­ing of the pho­to­jour­nal­ist Mah­moud Abu Zaid, known as Shawkan, who has been in pre­trial de­ten­tion since 2013.

The min­istry said that it was in­formed that the UNESCO is seek­ing to grant Shawkan the Guillermo Cano World Press Free­dom Prize and de­nounced the con­sid­er­a­tion of the pho­to­jour­nal­ist for the award.

“We deeply re­gret the in­volve­ment of UNESCO in hon­our­ing a per­son ac­cused of ter­ror­ist acts and crim­i­nal of­fenses, that in­clude de­lib­er­ate mur­der, as­sault­ing po­lice and cit­i­zens, and de­struc­tion of pub­lic and pri­vate prop­erty,” the min­istry said.

Shawkan was ar­rested while pho­tograph­ing the dis­per­sal of the Rabaa sit-ins that were or­gan­ised in 2013 to sup­port Is­lamist for­mer pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood regime. He is in­volved in the case known as “Rabaa dis­per­sal” that in­cludes the trial of 739 de­fen­dants. He is the only jour­nal­ist among the de­fen­dants.

His lawyers claimed be­fore court that he was on duty cov­er­ing the events when se­cu­rity forces stormed Rabaa Square in Nasr City to dis­perse the large broth­er­hood sit-in, which fol­lowed the oust­ing of the broth­er­hood-af­fil­i­ated pres­i­dent Morsi.

The min­istry said that it as­signed Egypt’s per­ma­nent del­e­gate to the UNESCO in Paris to hand over the sec­re­tar­iat a re­port re­gard­ing all the ac­cu­sa­tions lev­elled against Shawkan, which all are purely crim­i­nal in na­ture and ir­rel­e­vant to the prac­tice of the pro­fes­sion of the press or free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“Grant­ing de­fen­dant Shawkan the [Guillermo Cano World Press Free­dom Prize] is a dis­re­gard for the rule of law and the pro­ceed­ings taken against a de­fen­dant ac­cused of crimes,” the min­istry said, adding that the UNESCO needs a com­pre­hen­sive and se­ri­ous re­view of its work­ing meth­ods dur­ing the next phase un­der the new chair­per­son­ship of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The Guillermo Cano World Press Free­dom Prize was es­tab­lished by the UNESCO’s ex­ec­u­tive board in 1997 in hon­our of Guillermo Cano, a Colom­bian jour­nal­ist who died while ex­er­cis­ing his pro­fes­sion. Its win­ner will be an­nounced in May.

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Mah­moud Abu Zaid, known as Shawkan

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