Journalism Is Not A Crime


I want you to imagine going to work one day.

It's a day like any other, but then suddenly, without warning, you are arrested once you start doing your job. You are detained and questioned without a Lawyer being present. You are then beaten, and held for hours in a locked van, in the baking heat. You are thrown into an overcrowded Prison cell. No charges are brought against you. However, you have been detained. You are not given a time frame for your release. You are forcibly taken away from your family, your partner, your friends, your home, your work and your life. You are a prisoner. 14 months later, you are still in Prison. And it feels as though the world doesn't know that you are there.

In any other context this would be viewed by the authorities as assault and kidnap.

Now, read this from Amnesty International -

"Freelance Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zied (Shawkan) has been detained in Egypt without charge or trial for over a year. He is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his journalistic work. Shawkan was arrested on 14 August 2013 at a sit-in protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi. He was arrested in Al-Tayaran Street while taking photographs around Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in the Cairo district of Nasr City, while the security forces were violently dispersing the sit-in, which killed hundreds of people. Shawkan, who has worked as a Freelance Photojournalist for more than six years, was a contributor for the London-based photo agency Demotix at the time.

Along with others arrested that day, Shawkan was held in Cairo stadium and later transferred to various police stations. He was questioned without a lawyer present, and sent firstly to Abu Zaabal Prison. According to information available to Amnesty International, Shawkan was beaten by police and soldiers. Officers reportedly punched and kicked him, and beat him with sticks. He was also kept in a parked truck for eight hours in very high temperature when he got to Abu Zaabal Prison.

He was finally transferred to Tora Prison in December 2013 where his detention has been renewed every 45 days, pending completion of the investigation.

Shawkan has been detained for the past 14 months, solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and any charges would be unfounded."

Shawkan was our eyes and ears on that day. He is a Photojournalist, NOT a criminal. For doing his job, he now lives in an overcrowded cell with eleven other prisoners. He is deprived of the basic right to leave his cell to exercise. He has not seen the sky or felt grass under feet for over a year.

In a letter from prison, Shawkan compared his situation in Tora prison to “a black hole, where all things are the same, and everything is black.”

Those of us, blessed to have our freedom need to stand alongside Shawkan. We need to shout and make noise. Publicity for his plight will help to protect him and move him closer to the freedom he so bravely yearns for and deserves.

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights uphold the right of all individuals to freedom of expression. This right includes “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

Shawkan has contributed to a range of Egyptian and foreign publications, such as the US magazine Time, German newspaper Die Zeit, and online photo agencies, including Demotix. He is not known to have taken part in any protests or political violence.

Without Journalists like Shawkan, there is no news. In this case, he has become the news story, but even this has drifted out of the public eye. Do not forget him. Show Shawkan, his family, friends and yourself that you will do something to bring about his freedom. Every action makes a difference, no matter how small. To start, do one or all of the following. It's the least we can do.

  • Visit, like and share the Facebook Page "Freedom For Shawkan".
  • Use the hashtags #FreedomForShawkan and #JournalismIsNotACrime
  • Visit Amnesty International's "Take Urgent Action Page" and follow the links to write to the Egyptian authorities, requesting Shawkan's immediate release -
  • Share articles such as this on Social Media websites -,47076.html?dolist=ok/egypte-press-photographer-held-without-08-10-2014,47076.html