Egypt court hands five-year jail term to prominent photojournalist

Mahmoud Abu Zaid, a photojournalist known as Shawkan smiles inside a cage in an Egyptian Court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday Sept. 8, 2018. (AP)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Egypt court hands five-year jail term to prominent photojournalist

  • Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Muhammad Mursi
  • Shawkan’s detention sparked outrage among human rights groups and NGOs who lobbied continuously for his release

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday handed a five-year jail sentence to prominent photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, who earlier this year received UNESCO’s World Freedom Prize.
Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Muhammad Mursi.
He was accused of “murder and membership of a terrorist organization” — charges that can carry the death penalty — but should be able to walk free after already having spent five years in jail.
Shawkan should be able to leave prison “within a few days,” his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said as he welcomed the verdict.
But the lawyer added that the sentence was nevertheless “unfair because he (Shawkan) was only doing his job” and covering the events unfolding in the Egyptian capital five years ago.
Shawkan’s detention sparked outrage among human rights groups and NGOs who lobbied continuously for his release.
On Thursday, Amnesty International and press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) held a joint rally outside the Egyptian embassy in Paris to demand that he be set free.
At the time, Amnesty put out a statement warning Egyptian judicial authorities: “The world is watching you.”
RSF ranks Egypt 161st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index and says that at least 31 journalists are currently detained in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Shawkan was one of more than 700 defendants on trial in the same case, most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during the clashes.
The same court that jailed him also confirmed on Saturday death sentences initially issued in July against 75 defendants, including leaders of Mursi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
They include senior Brotherhood members Mohamed el-Baltagui, Issam Al-Aryan and Safwat Hijazi.
Of the 75 defendants, 44 were in the dock while the rest were tried in absentia.
On August 14, 2013, one of the bloodiest days in Egypt’s modern history, a month after the army ousted Mursi, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa Al-Adawiya square in Cairo.
About 700 people were killed within hours at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Square where another sit-in was being held.
Hundreds more were killed in street clashes with police over the months that followed and mass arrests were made.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say at least 40,000 people were arrested in the first year after Mursi’s ouster on July 3, 2013.
Egypt’s courts have sentenced hundreds of them to death or lengthy jail terms after speedy mass trials, that the human rights group said made a mockery of due process.
They include Mursi and several leaders of his Brotherhood movement.


Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

Updated 20 March 2019
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Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

  • Google received three fines in the past two years
  • EU Commission says Google has been blocking competitors for the past ten years

BRUSSELS: Google was fined $1.7 billion on Wednesday for blocking rival online search advertisers, the third large European Union antitrust penalty for the Alphabet business in two only years.

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 percent of Google’s turnover in 2018, said in a statement that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Google’s AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.

The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.

The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Last year, Vestager imposed a record $4.92 billion fine on Google for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals. This followed a $2.74 billion fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Google is now trying to comply with the order to ensure a level playing field with proposals to boost price comparison rivals and prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps. Critics however are still not happy.