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.


India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

Updated 25 April 2019
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India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

  • It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the US
  • The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography

NEW DELHI: An Indian court has reversed a decision that ordered Google and Apple to take down Chinese-owned video app TikTok over the spread of pornographic material, local media said.
The controversial but wildly popular app allows users to upload and share short 15 second clips from their phones and claims to have 500 million users worldwide — more than 120 million of them in India.
It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.
The Wednesday ruling by the Madras High Court in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state requires the popular platform to prevent “obscene videos” from being posted.
“(The court) warned if any controversial video violating its conditions were found uploaded using the app, it would be considered a contempt of court,” a report by the Press Trust of India agency said.
On April 16, India’s government demanded Google and Apple remove the service from its app stores, though the order did not stop those who had already downloaded the app from using it.
The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.
India’s government told the court on Wednesday that they had formed a committee to suggest ways to regulate apps like TikTok, PTI said.
TikTok told the court that they had removed around six million controversial videos from the platform since the order was announced banning new downloads last week.
The app hit the headlines in India earlier in April after a 19-year-old man was accidentally shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video on the platform.
TikTok has become a major rival to Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites among teenaged smartphone users in the past year.
Bangladesh banned TikTok in February as part of a clampdown on Internet pornography.
The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said a $5.7 million fine ordered against the company was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.
The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.