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The logo of the General Directorate for Internal Security, France's domestic intelligence agency, is seen at its headquarters in Levallois-Perret on July 13, 2018. The agency has recently summoned reporters for questioning in a leak investigation. (AFP/Gerard Julien)

French reporters questioned by intelligence service in leak investigation

May 14, 2019 4:53 PM ET

Berlin, May 14, 2019 -- The General Directorate for Internal Security, France's domestic intelligence agency, should stop pursuing investigative journalists Geoffrey Livolsi, Mathias Destal, and Benoît Collombat in a leak investigation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On April 25, agents from the General Directorate issued summons to Livolsi and Destal, reporters at investigative news website Disclose, and Collombat, an investigative reporter at French public broadcaster Radio France, to appear for questioning today and tomorrow, according to news reports.

The summons followed Disclose's April 15 publication of a report citing classified military documents revealing that French-manufactured weapons were being sold to Saudi Arabia and used in the war in Yemen, contrary to the French government's assertions, according to those news reports.

Livolsi, Destal, and their lawyers attended questioning for about an hour today, according to a statement published by Disclose on Twitter after the proceedings.

The statement described the General Directorate agents' questioning as an attempt to "breach the fundamental protective code in journalism regarding secret sources." The reporters refused to answer questions posed by the agents, and declared that they acted in the service of informing the public, according to the statement.

Radio France told CPJ via Twitter message that Collombat will attend questioning by authorities tomorrow.

"It is of vital importance for journalists to be able to protect confidential sources," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. "The General Directorate for Internal Security questioning journalists as part of a leak investigation puts them under unnecessary pressure and could have a chilling effect on national security reporting."

According to public broadcaster France24, the leak investigation was launched on December 13, 2018, following a complaint by the Ministry of Defense.

A joint statement by the journalists and their newsrooms on April 24 condemned the summons, and said that "this police investigation is an attack on the freedom of the press."

CPJ emailed the Paris prosecutor's office and the French Interior Ministry, which oversees the General Directorate, but did not immediately receive a reply.

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