So far in 2015, we have seen journalists beheaded with machetes, a blogger whipped with a cane as an official judicial punishment for his writing, editorial cartoonists gunned down in their office, bloggers hacked to death in Bangladesh, more than 20 journalists detained and even convicted and jailed in Egypt, and journalists detained in America for covering the racism prevalent in almost every official part of our system. Not a great year.
In August, a judge reaffirmed a guilty verdict against three al-Jazeera English journalists. Last month, President al-Sisi pardoned the journalists as a part of the annual Eid holiday tradition of leaders granting pardons. The current regime in Egypt does not much like journalists, and it is estimated that some two dozen writers and photographers are in prison in that country, having been arrested for doing their jobs. Usually, they are charged with “spying,” but more often than not they are detained for months or even years before they even hear why they were arrested or what charges they face.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a photojournalist whose work you may very well have seen, as his photographs have appeared in Time magazine and some of them were syndicated by Corbis. (One appears below the fold.) He covered the protests in Tahrir Square and the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak. His professional name is Shawkan. As of today, November 30, 2015, he has spent 838 days in pre-trial detention. His first court session is due to take place on December 12, but his lawyer reports to Amnesty International that he has yet to see Shawkan’s case file. Under Egyptian law, there is a two-year cap on pre-trial detention; 794 days is longer than two years.