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Jailed Egypt photographer 'Shawkan' to receive UN press freedom prize

Egypt angered over UNESCO plan to give World Press Freedom Prize to 'accused terrorist'
Shawkan has been in custody since his arrest in 2013 (AFP)

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is to be awarded the UN culture agency's World Press Freedom Prize, the organisation said on Monday.

"The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression," said Maria Ressa, the head of the UNESCO jury which is awarding the prize.

Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

He is one of 700 defendants facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during the clashes.

Egypt's foreign affairs ministry on Sunday conveyed its "profound regret that an organisation with the status of UNESCO would honour a person accused of terrorist and criminal acts".

Several hundred people, including three journalists, were killed during the security forces' bloody dispersal of a pro-Morsi sit-in after the military removed him in 2013.

Egypt's first democratically elected president had taken office in 2012 but faced mass protests a year into his controversial rule.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranks Egypt 161 out of 180 countries on its press freedom index, saying at least 31 journalists are currently in custody in the country.

It slammed a decision by the Egyptian prosecution in March to seek the death penalty against Shawkan.

UNESCO said it will officially award its prize to Shawkan on 2 May, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

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