According to the Aandolu Agency, Egyptian security forces raided its office on Tuesday night, shutting down security cameras and internet. The workers' passports, cell phones and computers were confiscated. After the sweep, police arrested four of the agency’s staff : three Egyptians and one Turkish citizen, Hilim Balci, who is in charge of finance and administration.
A female Egyptian journalist was also arrested but released by midnight. The others were taken to an undisclosed location on Wednesday morning.
According to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, it targeted the news agency because it was spreading “false news with the aim of distorting Egypt’s image” and as part of its efforts to “expose the plots of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and the countries supporting it”, as reported by the Associated Press.
The raid on the Anadolu Agency comes amidst a political rivalry between Egypt and Turkey, who see each other as enemies after the military took over in Egypt in 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni islamist organization, was proscribed and branded as an enemy of the state by the military, after removing the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from power. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a long time supporter of the organization.
Egypt has a long-standing record of abusing journalists and muzzling press freedom. Just last month, the IFJ condemned the arrest of journalists Hossam El-Sayed and Solafa Magdy, who were accused of terrorist activities. This followed a string of arrests made of journalists and activists, in October 2019. The IFJ called on the authorities to stop the repression of media.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger, said: “Journalists should not suffer from political strife between countries. Jailing media for spreading “false news” is an easy way of stifling critical voices. We strongly urge the Egyptian authorities to release all jailed media workers and to respect press freedom. No journalist should fear punishment for reporting the news.”