The price of photography: Shawkan, 1000+ days behind bars

“My passion is photography, but I am paying the price for my passion with my life”

Mahmoud Abou Zeid “Shawkan”

New York, August 23, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists, in partnership with the Bronx Documentary Center, will showcase the work of Egyptian freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, who has been imprisoned for more than three years. The exhibit, which runs from September 8 to 11, will highlight Shawkan’s images of the Egyptian revolution, from protests and celebrations in Tahrir Square to shots of everyday life in Cairo.

Shawkan was detained on August 14, 2013, while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo. He was held without charge for more than two years before being charged with weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, as part of a mass trial. The journalist has denied all of the charges. His trial has been repeatedly postponed.

“Photography is not just a hobby for me,” Shawkan wrote in a March 2015 letter to mark his 600th day behind bars. “It is an actual way of life. It’s not just how you hold a camera and snap a picture. It’s the way that you see life and everything around you. … My passion is photography, but I am paying the price for my passion with my life. Without it, a part of me is missing.” CPJ will honor Shawkan with an International Press Freedom Award, which recognizes courageous journalists who have risked their lives to do their work, at its annual gala in November.

“CPJ has repeatedly called on Egyptian authorities to grant Shawkan his freedom, including in meetings with senior officials in Cairo last year, but the environment for press freedom has continued to deteriorate,” said Courtney Radsch, CPJ’s director of advocacy. “It is ludicrous that Egypt can continue to imprison innocent journalists and maintain the support of countries such as the United States without repercussions. We hope this exhibit will help raise awareness about the injustice of Shawkan’s imprisonment, and lead to his release so he can accept the award in person.”

During a mission to Egypt in February 2015, CPJ raised Shawkan’s case with the minister of transitional justice, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Council for Human Rights. His case and his father, mother, and brother were featured in the 2014 CPJ documentary, “Under Threat,” about press freedom in Egypt.


CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Media contact:

Mehdi Rahmati

Communications Associate

[email protected]