ANKARA, TURKEY - Turkey’s state-run news agency said Wednesday that Egyptian police raided its office in Cairo and detained four of its staff members.
Anadolu Agency said it had no information on where its employees, including one Turkish citizen, were taken to following the raid late Tuesday. The Turkish citizen is in charge of the office’s finances and management.
Egyptian security forces shut down the agency’s security cameras and internet and searched the premise overnight, the agency reported. The workers’ passports, cell phones and computers were confiscated, it said, adding that no explanation was given to the agency’s lawyer.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry condemned the raid, demanded the immediate release of the Anadolu employees and summoned the top Egyptian diplomat in protest, a ministry official said.
“The raid last night by the Egyptian security forces on the Anadolu Agency Cairo bureau and the detention of some of the office workers without justification amounts to harassment and intimidation against Turkish media,” the ministry said in a statement.
“We expect Egyptian authorities to immediately release the detained employees,” the ministry added.
It also blamed Western nations for the raid, accusing them of “turning a blind eye” to rights violations in Egypt.
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.
The incident reflects tense relations between Turkey and Egypt. Turkey, which backed Egypt’s deposed former president, Mohamed Morsi, has been a staunch critic of current president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
As part of a broader regional rivalry, Turkey and Egypt back opposing sides in Libya’s chaotic war. In a bid to boost its influence in the eastern Mediterranean, Ankara recently signed security and maritime agreements with Libya’s embattled U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli. The deals prompted particular outrage in Egypt, which supports Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s eastern forces. Egypt sees Turkey as a threat to its drilling, pipeline and other maritime rights in the Mediterranean Sea.
In recent years, Egyptian authorities have jailed dozens of Egyptian reporters and occasionally expelled foreign journalists from the country. Egypt remains among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S.-based watchdog.