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.


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.