The war on journalism has sunk to yet another new low with France threatening to jail journalists who exposed their nation’s complicity in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
Last month, a series of documents were leaked to the investigative news website Disclose that exposed that French military equipment supplied to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was widely being used in the war against Yemen, a war that many commentators have called a genocide. The documents showed that top military brass was well aware of how the equipment was being used, despite the use in offensive operations being a breach of a 2014 arms treaty.
The General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) questioned the co-founders of Disclose this past week and accused the duo of “compromising the secrecy of national defence.” The DGSI are threatening the two journalists with five years in prison and a €75,000 fine for handling classified documents under a 2009 law that outlaws “attacks on national defence secrets”.
“They want to make an example of us because it’s the first time in France that there have been leaks like this”Geoffrey Livolsi, co-founder of Disclose, speaking to The Intercept
Disclose co-founders Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal, alongside Radio France reporter Benoît Collombat have all refused to reveal their sources, despite the pressure and threats of jail time, a situation with chilling echoes of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.
While France has laws protecting the freedom of the press, these laws don’t extend to “state secrets” and critics have contended that press freedoms are under sustained attacks in the country, embattled President Emmanual Macron signing a law in 2018 that allows the French government to shut down any news agency deemed to be under “foreign influence”, a move that was seen by many as an attempt to silence international critics such as Russia Today and al-Jazeera.
“There’s a chilling effect. It’s a warning for every journalist – don’t go into that kind of subject, don’t investigate this information.”Virginie Marquet, Disclose lawyer, speaking to The Intercept
A recent report by the United Nations revealed that the Saudi-led war on Yemen has been responsible for the deaths of a staggering 233,000 people, almost 1% of Yemen’s entire population and a number far higher than previously thought. Findings from the study include significant rises in the number of civilians killed through the side effects of war, with 131,000 having perished from starvation, thirst or disease since 2015. One child is currently dying in Yemen every 11 minutes and 54 seconds.
The leaked information led to calls from Amnesty International for France “to immediately suspend all arms transfers that could be used by any of the warring parties in Yemen – once and for all.”