Making an example of us: French journalists face jail for exposing govt lies about Yemen war
French journalists are being threatened with jail time for reporting on leaked documents revealing the countrys complicity in the Saudi-led war in Yemen after they refused to answer questions from anti-terror police.
“They want to make an example of us because its the first time in France that there have been leaks like this,” Geoffrey Livolsi, co-founder of investigative news outlet Disclose, told the Intercept, referring to the classified Directorate of Military Intelligence briefing, meant for President Emmanuel Macrons eyes only, that revealed the government had lied to the public about how the weapons it was selling would be used.
They want to scare journalists and their sources away from revealing state secrets.
Livolsi, his Disclose co-founder Mathias Destal, and Radio France reporter Benoît Collombat could face up to five years in prison and a €75,000 fine for merely handling classified documents without authorization under a 2009 law that prohibits “attacks on national defense secrets” after the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), Frances domestic intelligence service, accused them of “compromising the secrecy of national defense.”
The DGSI hauled them in for questioning this week after a story they published last month based on the leaked document showed top government officials were fully aware that military equipment they sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – including laser-guided missile systems and tanks – was being used “offensively” in Yemen in violation of a 2014 arms treaty.
The journalists refused to answer questions about their sources and work, invoking their right to remain silent and instead proffering a statement in support of public interest journalism. While France does have a law protecting the freedom of the press, it does not apply to “national defense secrets,” and there are no exceptions – not even for the public interest.