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IPI urges Egypt to release Shawkan immediately

A group of people gather at Adeviyye Rabiatul square to demand the release of photojournalist Shawkan, in Cairo, Egypt, 12 July 2014
A group of people gather at Adeviyye Rabiatul square to demand the release of photojournalist Shawkan, in Cairo, Egypt, 12 July 2014

Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on ipi.media on 27 February 2019.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, has again called on Egypt to release award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid aka Shawkan.

The Egyptian government has given no explanation for the latest delay in Shawkan's release, which should have occurred earlier this month after the initiation of release procedures. In September, he was sentenced to five years in prison but should have been released immediately due to time served.

Shawkan was arrested in 2013 while covering a protest at Cairo's Rabaa Adaweyya Square and has been in prison since then. In 2018 he was awarded the UNESCO Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.

"Shawkan's arrest represented a severe setback for press freedom in Egypt. His continued detention despite the recent court ruling now also raises grave doubts about the rule of law that your government claims to uphold," IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said in a letter to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry.

Urging the foreign minister to expedite Shawkan's release and uphold press freedom and rule of law, Trionfi pointed out that there was also no information available about the status of journalist Ismail Alexandrani, who has been in prison since 2015 and faces trial before a military court. On May 22 there were reports that he had been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, which was later denied by military spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai.

"We also remain deeply troubled by the arbitrary detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who has been in prison for over 670 days without any charges filed in the court against him," Trionfi added.

The letter also notes that there are many more journalists languishing in Egyptian prisons without charge. The lack of legal proceedings implies that the government has no evidence against these journalists and is detaining them to silence independent media in the country, it said.

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