PARIS (AP) — The United Nations’ cultural agency ignored warnings from Egypt and awarded the World Press Freedom Prize Monday to an imprisoned Egyptian photographer.
An independent jury panel for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization gave the honor to Mahmoud Abu Zeid, a photojournalist known as Shawkan.
He has been jailed since August 2013, when he was arrested in Cairo in while covering a demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square.
Jury President Maria Ressa said the award, which recognizes work that promotes freedom of the press, especially under dangerous conditions, “pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.”
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry strongly warned UNESCO on Sunday against recognizing Shawkan, saying he faced terror-related charges.
Egypt’s parliament speaker, Ali Abdel-Al, said Monday “the organization has tried before to take a political approach in some issues that led some countries to walk out.” He urged UNESCO to keep its focus on culture and science instead.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has called Shawkan’s arrest arbitrary and said his continued detention infringes on his human rights.
The $25,000 World Press Freedom Prize was established in 1997 to honor Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian newspaper editor who was gunned down outside El Espectador’s offices in Bogota in 1986.
Drug traffickers are believed to have ordered Cano’s assassination because of his work documenting the effects of the Colombian drug trade.