UNESCO announced on Monday that imprisoned Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid – known as Shawkan – has been selected to receive the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.
“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” said Maria Ressa, president of the jury, UNESCO said in a media release on Monday.
Shawkan, 31, is a freelance photojournalist who was arrested in August 2013 while covering the dispersal of the Rabaa El-Adawiya sit-in in Cairo, where supporters of ex-president Mohamed Morsi had gathered to protest his ouster.
Shawkan is the first Egyptian laureate of the prize, having been selected by an independent jury of international media professionals, said the press release.
Recipients of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Prize receive $25,000.
Celebrated in Ghana this year, the prize will be awarded on 2 May on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. The theme this year will be "Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law".
Meanwhile, in an official statement on Sunday, Egypt's foreign ministry has expressed its regret at what it says is UNESCO's intention to award a press freedom prize to Shawkan.
"We warn against the politicisation of UNESCO and its involvement in the implementation of the agenda of certain countries, while drifting away from its cultural mission," the statement read.
The ministry explained that Shawkan had been accused of “terrorism offences and criminal offences, which include murder, attempted murder, assault on police and citizens, and the burning and destruction of public and private property.”
A complete file on all the charges attributed to Shawkan has been sent to UNESCO by the Egypt's permanent representative to the body in Paris, the ministry added.