The decision by an independent international jury to nominate an Egyptian photojournalist who has been incarcerated for nearly five years for a top UN award, helps “shine the light” on press freedom at a “pivotal moment”.
That’s according to Maria Ressa, who is President of the jury for this year’s World Press Freedom Prize, awarded each year by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The 2018 winner, announced on Monday, is photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who goes by the name of Shawkan, whose imprisonment on terrorism-related charges has been described by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as a clear breach of human rights law.
According to press reports, the Egyptian government issued a statement saying it deeply regretted the nomination of Shawkan for the award, which will be formally presented next week on World Press Freedom Day.
Matt Wells asked Maria Ressa - whose own news site based in the Philippines, Rappler, has been heavily criticized by the government there – why the jury had chosen Shawkan for the UNESCO award.