“an extreme violation of the freedom to inform”

The journalist from Disclose, Ariane Lavrilleux, who spent 40 hours in police custody, was outraged on Thursday that a “new milestone” had been taken against the freedom to inform. A former soldier, whom the courts suspect of being one of Ariane Lavrilleux’s sources, was indicted for misappropriation and disclosure of national defense secrets.

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The journalist from Disclose, author of an investigation into a French intelligence program in Egypt, who spent 40 hours in police custody, was outraged on Thursday September 21 that a “new milestone” had been taken against the freedom of inform, denouncing a “misuse of justice services”.

“If we do not protect sources, it is the end of journalism,” insisted Ariane Lavrilleux during a press conference organized at the offices of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Paris.

The investigative journalist recounted how, on Tuesday at 6:00 a.m., “nine intelligence agents and magistrates usually in charge of the fight against terrorism arrived” at her home in Marseille, with suitcases of “cybersurveillance software” “to vacuum data” from his phones, computers, USB stick.

“An investigating judge was present on site”, and Ariane Lavrilleux learned on this occasion that she “had been placed under surveillance for some time”, feeling then treated as a “delinquent”.

“Usually, they are there to track down attacks. For months, these brilliant minds were mobilized to track down a journalist, her sources (…) This is an extreme violation of the freedom to inform and the protection of journalistic sources,” she repeated.

“Omerta” around arms sales

During her hearings at the police station, she invoked her “right to silence”, when the agents asked her “since when” she had been working for Disclose, trying “to find out how we were able to obtain +confidential defense+” information.

For her, this “arrest after attacks which have multiplied in recent years, mainly under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron”, against freedom of the press, shows that “we have reached a new milestone”.

“We cannot do anything in the name of national defense. Precisely because we are not in Egypt,” she judged.

Ariane Lavrilleux, journalist from Disclose, during a press conference, September 21, 2023 in Paris © Thomas SAMSON / AFP

According to her, his arrest “showed that we are disturbing and that we are necessary so that the silence on arms sales to dictatorships stops.”

A source placed under judicial control

Disclose had claimed in an article published in November 2021 that the French intelligence mission “Sirli”, started in February 2016 for the benefit of Egypt in the name of the fight against terrorism, had been hijacked by the Egyptian state which used the information collected to carry out airstrikes on suspected smugglers’ vehicles on the Egyptian-Libyan border.

Following this publication, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces filed a complaint for “violation of national defense secrecy”.

A preliminary investigation was opened in November 2021 before an investigating judge was appointed in the summer of 2022.

A former soldier, whom the courts seem to consider as one of the sources of articles published by the media Disclose, was indicted on Thursday for misappropriation and disclosure of national defense secrets by its custodian, two offenses punishable by 7 years of imprisonment. imprisonment and a fine of one million euros.

He was placed under judicial supervision, said the public prosecutor.

With AFP


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