By Nourhan Fahmy
CAIRO, Jan 22 (Aswat Masriya) – A photo of activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh held by her colleague on a sidewalk near Talaat Harb Square after being shot by security forces on Jan. 24, 2015 won the first place in the Shawkan Photo Awards ceremony.
The ceremony, held at the Press Syndicate Thursday evening, was co-organised by the Freedom For Shawkan campaign and the Press Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee in honour of the currently detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abo Zeid, popularly known as Shawkan.
The winning photo, taken by photojournalist Islam Osama, depicted the shooting of Sabbagh, which took place when a group of members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) organised a peaceful march commemorating the martyrs of the Jan. 25 uprising on the eve of its fourth anniversary.
A photo taken by Gehad Hamdy of al-Zamalek SC football fans cheering for their club’s victory in the Egyptian league won the second place. Belal Darder’s captivating photo of a child’s last gaze before his death in a protest in Ain Shams during the fourth anniversary won third place.
Two photos garnered the fourth place as votes were split equally between al-Sayed al-Baz’s shot of the breakdown of Lieutenant Colonel Mostafa Al-Wateedy's wife during his funeral in Qalyubeya, and photographer Sameh Abou al-Hassan’s photo of Israa al-Taweel crying in court during one of her renewal sessions.
The competition featured 12 winning photographs securing 10 places, with two photographs sharing the seventh place.
All photojournalists participating in the competition had their works displayed at the entrance of the hall where the ceremony took place. Results of the winning photographs in the Shawkan Photo Awards were first announced on Dec. 31.
Concluding the ceremony, Shawkan’s father stood at the podium and thanked all photojournalists who took part in the competition as well as Shawkan’s supporters. He further reiterated the famous statements “journalism is not a crime” and “a journalist is not a terrorist.”
First place winner Islam Osama followed Shawkan’s father on stage, expressing his support for Shawkan and hoping for his presence “next time” the competition is held. Osama also mentioned news about a potential presidential pardon and was hopeful about it, stressing that the pardon is every detainee’s right, not a grant from the authorities.
The idea of the awards came to shed light on Shawkan’s case in a unique and productive way as well as to communicate the significance of photojournalism.
The selection process consisted of two stages; first photographs were posted on the Shawkan Photo Awards Facebook page with the number of likes received by each photograph recorded, and second a judges committee also had the chance to pick photographs of their own choice.
In a letter dated Jan. 3, Shawkan addressed all photojournalists, thanking them and expressing his pride of their work that he has yet to see. He also expressed gratitude to the organisers of the awards, including TV anchor Ahmed Khair al-Deen and Head of the Freedoms Committee at the press syndicate Khaled al-Balshy.
Spending more than two years in pre-trial detention in contravention to the law, Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 while he was covering the security forces’ dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in.
Shawkan is charged with murder, attempted murder, protesting and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group in the case known as the “Rabaa dispersal”, along with over 700 defendants.
The first trial session of the “Rabaa dispersal” case took place on Dec. 12; however, the defendants were unable to show up in court.
The session was abruptly adjourned to Feb. 6, as it was discovered that the court cage could not fit the number of defendants expected to attend the trial.
Judge Hassan Farid, presiding over the case, decided to postpone the trial for two months in time for the Arab Contractors Company to conduct necessary measures to expand the court cage.
Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other local and international rights groups have repeatedly called for Shawkan’s release amid concerns over freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Egypt.