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Imprisoned freelancer Mahmoud Abou Zeid - a forgotten journalist in Egypt

 Imprisoned freelancer Mahmoud Abou Zeid - a forgotten journalist in Egypt

World Press Freedom Day marks 262 days in prison without charge for Egyptian photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid. 

In recent months, Al Jazeera's #FreeAJStaff campaign has done a fantastic job highlighting the imprisonment of four of its staff in Egypt. But few people have heard of Mahmoud Abou Zeid, a twenty seven year old Egyptian freelance photographer, who is being held in the same prison complex.

Mahmoud, known professionally as Shawkan, has been detained without charge since 14 August 2013.
A contributor to publications such as Time Magazine, Die Zeit, Media Group, and online photo agency, Demotix, Shawkan was covering the violent clashes in Rab'aa Square in Cairo last summer between supporters of ousted President Morsi and security forces, when he was arrested with fellow photojournalist Louis Jammes.

Jammes told colleagues that he and Shawkan were beaten by security forces and their cameras taken. They were then herded into the Cairo stadium with protesters and other journalists. Jammes, and several other foreign journalists were later released, but Shawkan was not. He was held in the stadium with 47 other prisoners where he says he was systematically beaten by authorities for three days before being transferred to Tora jail.
Nine months on, Shawkan finds himself in a bleak and frustrating state of limbo. He has not been formally charged, his pre-trial detention has been continually extended and his appeal for release has been denied. He says he feels as if he has been kidnapped, that he has fallen into a black hole, where no-one knows about him and his situation. 

Mohammed, Shawkan's brother, and friends have set up the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page to raise awareness of his situation and campaign for his release. They are also using the site to post occasional messages that he sends from prison. Mohammed has been allowed to visit his brother several times, but he is worried about his mental health, which he says "is getting worse every day".  "I feel very sad for my brother. I do not know what is [his] fate.  He is without any guilt... he was doing his job as a news photographer." 

Mohammed has no idea what will happen to his brother but is keen to raise awareness of his situation, in the hope that international attention will help his cause. "I hope all photojournalists pray for my brother's freedom...and also be careful while doing their job". 

RPT is providing support to Shawkan's parents while their son is in prison.

You can help to raise awareness of Shawkan's situation by sharing the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page and tweeting support using the hashtag #freeshawkan.


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