LONDON: French journalist Ariane Lavrilleux was arrested and her home searched earlier this week for reporting on the alleged hijack of French intelligence information by Egypt two years ago, according to Disclose and Lavrilleux’s lawyer.
Investigative website Disclose published a series of articles authored by the Lavrilleux in November 2021 based on hundreds of secret documents.
It said they showed how information from a French counter-intelligence operation in Egypt intended to track jihadist militants, codenamed “Sirli,” was used by the Egyptian state for “a campaign of arbitrary killings” against smugglers operating along the Libyan border.
Lavrilleux, an investigative reporter working in the Middle East and based in Cairo, was released Wednesday evening after nearly two days in police custody.
Virginie Marquet, the lawyer for Lavrilleux and Disclose, condemned the arrest saying the published information is of public interest and “a new, unacceptable attack on the confidentiality of sources.”
Marquet said: “I am appalled and worried about the escalation in attacks on the freedom to inform and the coercive measures taken against the Disclose journalist. This search risks seriously undermining the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.”
Rights groups denounced the arrest and called for the investigation against her to be dropped, saying that questioning “reporters about their confidential sources places them under unwarranted pressure and could have a chilling effect on defense reporting.”
The initial Disclose articles said French forces were complicit in at least 19 bombings against smugglers between 2016 and 2018 in the region.
The documents showed there were warnings from officials within the French government, but the operation was not called into question, Disclose said.
Its publication prompted France’s armed forces minister to call for an investigation for “violation of national defense secrecy,” and a case was opened in July 2022 by the Paris prosecutor’s office that was then placed in the hands of France’s domestic intelligence agency, DGSI.