Photographers come together to free imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist

Photographers come together to free imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist
#FreeShawkan — Photographers are sharing pictures of themselves on social media in support of Mahmoud Abou Zeid, jailed for covering a protest against Egypt’s military government.

On the morning of August 14, 2013 photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid arrived at the sprawling tent city outside Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque. Muslim Brotherhood supporters had gathered to protest against the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, by the Egyptian military.

As one of Egypt’s top news photographers, Abu Zeid (widely known as Shawkan), had covered numerous protests against the government since 2011’s Arab Spring awoke simmering discontent – but today was to prove just the beginning of an ongoing nightmare.

The authorities moved in to break up the camp with tear gas and live rounds. Shawkan identified himself to the police as a journalist and was immediately arrested – with his camera in his hands – before being thrown into a police van. By the end of the day, over eight hundred civilians had been killed.

Shawkan court

Today, Shawkan remains in Tora prison awaiting trial and in dire need of medical attention. He is the only journalist in a mass trial of over seven hundred co-defendants – all of whom have been imprisoned for months longer than the constitution allows. The extensive list of charges includes “terrorising citizens”, “attempted murder of police officers” and “damaging national unity”.

Shawkan’s ordeal is indicative of Egyptian government’s attempt to portray journalists as agents of instability and a threat to national security.

mostafa.rady

As Shawkan’s postponed court date approaches on February 8, photojournalists from the UK and elsewhere are coming together on social media to highlight the injustice of his case and pressure for his release. They’re showing support for their colleague, who has contributed to publications such as Time Magazine, Die Zeit, BILD, Media Group, and online photo agency, Demotix.

International pressure succeeded in freeing the “Al Jazeera three” of Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste in 2015, but many Egyptian freelancers and journalists remain in jail in horrible conditions with litle-to-no hope for a fair trial. The assault on press freedom bites hardest against local reporters – like Shawkan – who often struggle to attract international support for their plight.

As Shawkan was arrested with his camera in his hands, other photographers are sharing portraits of themselves with their cameras, alongside the hashtag #FreeShawkan.

Sarah Lee 1

Sarah Lee

As well as pressuring for his release, they’re seeking to highlight the shocking treatment he’s received. After nearly three years in prison without medical attention, he has contracted Hepatitis C and become anaemic due to malnourishment, confinement and hunger strikes. Ahmed Abu Seif, who is co-ordinating the wider campaign for Shawkan’s release, says his psychological and physical health are of “great concern”.

Shawkan court cage

So far a number of photographers have shown their support, including Eddie Mulholland and John Robertson (both former press photographers of the year); Sarah Lee (The Guardian), Muir Vidler (Vice, Time) and others.

David Hoffman

David Hoffman

Despite Egypt’s lack of protection for journalists or a free press, supporters of Shawkan hope to raise the profile of his case internationally to ensure he is acknowledged as a professional who was doing his job – rather than a terrorist, as the government would seek to present him.

Find out how to support the Freedom for Shawkan Campaign.

Latest on Huck

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks
Election 2024

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks

Huck is teaming up with our friends at Dalston Superstore and Queer House Party to bring you an election night viewing party like no other.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor
Activism

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor

Groups and artists have been campaigning for Live Nation to drop the bank as a sponsor for Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight over alleged ties to the arms trade.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East
Outdoors

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East

New photo book ‘Football كرة القدم’ draws together pictures from over a dozen photographers to explore the region’s vibrant football culture.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
Election 2024

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

Written by: Ben Smoke

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why
Election 2024

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why

One of Starmer’s constituents, Alice tried every way to talk to her then MP about the crisis facing her generation, but he did not listen she writes exclusively for Huck.

Written by: Alice, Green New Deal Rising

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”
Culture

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”

In our latest Daddy Issues column, award winning actor and MC Ashley “Bashy” Thomas talks traditional masculinity, learning survival skills from his Dad and ‘making it’.

Written by: Robert Kazandjian

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now