Sun, 03 Dec 2023

French Journalist Released After Nearly 2 Days in Police Custody

Voice of America
21 Sep 2023, 07:36 GMT+10

A French journalist was released Wednesday evening after nearly two days in police custody in an incident that her employer said stemmed from the reporter's coverage of leaked documents.

Early Tuesday morning, France's domestic intelligence arrested reporter Ariane Lavrilleux and searched her home. After 39 hours in police custody, she was released Wednesday evening, the investigative outlet Disclose said.

The detention and search were in connection with Lavrilleux's reporting in 2021 that Egypt had misused French intelligence to target smugglers on the Libyan border and kill civilians, according to Disclose, the reporter's employer. At least 19 bombings against civilians that took place between 2016 and 2018 were linked to French intelligence given to Cairo, the report found.

Disclose condemned the arrest and search as "a new, unacceptable attack on the confidentiality of sources."

France's embassy in Washington did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment from VOA.

Lavrilleux's lawyer, Virginie Marquet, said police were investigating whether Lavrilleux had compromised national security through her reporting on leaked documents.

The French Ministry of the Armed Forces filed a complaint for "violation of national defense secrecy" following the report's publication. A case was opened in July 2022 by the Paris prosecutor's office that was later handed over to the General Directorate for Internal Security.

Lavrilleux's arrest is believed to be the first time since 2007 that police have searched the home of a French journalist, according to the International Press Institute.

Press freedom and human rights groups promptly denounced Lavrilleux's arrest and the search of her home and called for the investigation against her to be dropped.

"Journalists must be able to freely report on national defense and security issues," Attila Mong, who covers Europe at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement. "Questioning reporters about their confidential sources places them under unwarranted pressure and could have a chilling effect on defense reporting."

The International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders also condemned the arrest, saying it could have negative consequences for press freedom.

In a statement, Amnesty International's Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said, "It is deeply chilling that, almost two years after the revelations that France was allegedly complicit in the extrajudicial executions of hundreds of people in Egypt, it is the journalist who exposed these atrocities that is being targeted, rather than those responsible."

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