Turkey has summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat to protest what it said was a raid by Egyptian security forces on the Cairo office of Turkey’s state-run news agency, in which four people were arrested.
The Anadolu news agency on Wednesday said the four employees, including one Turkish national, were taken to an undisclosed location after the police swoop.
Egyptian security forces shut down the agency’s security cameras and internet and searched the premises overnight, the agency reported. The workers’ passports, mobile phones, and computers were confiscated, it said, adding no explanation was given to the agency’s lawyer.
Turkey’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the move, which it described as “an act of violence” against Anadolu. It also summoned the Egyptian charge d’affaires over the matter.
“This act of violence against Anadolu not only shows the Egyptian leadership’s hostile stance towards the freedom of the press, but also once again shows its grave conditions on democracy and transparency,” the ministry said.
It also blamed Western nations for the raid, accusing them of “turning a blind eye” to rights violations in Egypt.
The ministry called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release the detained Anadolu personnel.
"The raid to @anadoluagency 's Cairo office last night by Egyptian security forces and detention of some workers without justification is an act of harassment and intimidation against Turkish press, we strongly condemn it" Turkish Foreign Ministry said https://t.co/8ibnM3doDx pic.twitter.com/PhTyKNqsrv
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) January 15, 2020
Ankara’s ties with Cairo have been poor since the Egyptian army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2013. Morsi was a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The two countries have also been at odds over maritime jurisdiction and offshore resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
A spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Interior was not immediately available for comment.
But an Egyptian official confirmed the arrests and accused the news agency of operating without a license.
Media are required to have permission to work in Egypt, but that requirement is often used as a pretext to silence reporting the state sees as critical.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, said security forces raided an apartment in the heart of Cairo that Anadolu used as a makeshift office, confiscating documents and cameras.
He accused two journalists of spreading news that distorted Egypt’s image, and said prosecutors were investigating all four employees.
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, described the raid as a “hostile attempt against Anadolu employees by Egypt’s putschist leadership”, adding Ankara called on the international community to condemn the detentions.
Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey expected the immediate release of the employees who he said were “illegally detained”.
In recent years, Egyptian authorities have jailed dozens of Egyptian reporters and occasionally expelled foreign journalists from the country.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian national, has been held in prison without charge for 1,118 days.
Egypt remains among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based watchdog.
“Journalists operating in Egypt should not have to work in fear that they will be used to settle political scores between countries,” said Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator for CPJ.
The group urged Egyptian authorities to release those being held and “stop using false news charges to harass and silence the media”.