West News Wire: According to the outlet and the reporter’s attorney, a French reporter has been detained and her home has been searched in relation to a story published two years ago by the online publication Disclose that claimed Egyptian intelligence was being mishandled by France.
Rights groups denounced the journalist Ariane Lavrilleux’s detention on Tuesday. Lavrilleux wrote the report alleging that Egypt had utilised French intelligence to target smugglers on the Libyan border and kill civilians. After reading it, France’s minister of defence demanded an investigation.
Virginie Marquet, Lavrilleux’s attorney, claimed that a judge and police officers from the French intelligence service DGSI were questioning her client as part of a probe into possible national security breaches.
“It’s a rather uncommon procedure,” Marquet told Reuters. “It goes up a notch when it comes to coercive measures against journalists.”
The DGSI did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
Investigative website Disclose published a series of articles in November 2021 based on hundreds of secret documents.
It said they showed how information from a French counterintelligence operation in Egypt, codenamed “Sirli”, was used by the Egyptian state for “a campaign of arbitrary killings” against smugglers operating along the Libyan border.
On Tuesday, Disclose announced Lavrilleux’s arrest on X, formerly known as Twitter.
It criticised a “unacceptable attack on the secrecy of sources” and said that its reporting “relied on several hundred top secret documents to unveil a campaign of arbitrary executions” carried out by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi “with the complicity of the French state.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Society of Journalists promptly supported the website’s point of view.
RSF stated, “We worry that the DGSI’s actions will jeopardise the sources’ confidentiality.”
Lawyer Marquet, who is also defending Disclose, stated, “I am outraged and alarmed by the surge in attacks on the freedom to inform, and the coercive actions employed against the Disclose journalist.
She added that Lavrilleux had “only revealed” that “this search risks seriously undermining the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.”
According to the earliest Disclose articles, French soldiers participated in at least 19 bombs targeting smugglers in the area between 2016 and 2018.
Despite warnings from French government authorities, according to the documents, the operation was not questioned, according to Disclose.
Following the article’s release, the French Ministry of Defence lodged a complaint for “violation of national defence secrecy,” and the Paris prosecutor’s office launched a case in July 2022 that was later turned over to the DGSI.
“We’re very worried,” said Katia Roux of Amnesty France. “To put in police custody a journalist for doing her job, moreover for revealing information of public interest, could be a threat to freedom of the press and confidentiality of sources.”
RSF and other rights groups also released statements condemning the arrest.