Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE) - The government of French President Emmanuel Macron is moving to prosecute journalists who have exposed France’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s illegal war in Yemen as well as theefforts to cover it up.
The government’s actions are a response to the publication of a report on April 15 by the new journalistic organization Disclose, in partnership with the Intercept, Radio France, Mediapart, Arte Info and Konbini. The report includes a leaked, classified intelligence report to the president and leading ministers from September last year with precise information on the use of French arms in Yemen. It proves that the Macron government’s claims that it had no evidence that French arms were being used in the war, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians, were lies.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Disclose and its partners published a joint statement reporting that its co-founders Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal, as well as Benoit Collombat of Radio France, had been summoned to appear before police yesterday for questioning in relation to the revelations.
“We have learned that a preliminary investigation for ‘compromising national defense secrets’ has been launched by the Paris prosecutors,” it states. The investigation is being conducted by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), the domestic intelligence agency.
Condemning the Macron government’s assault on a free press, the Disclosestatement notes: “The confidential documents revealed by Disclose and its partners represents a matter of major public interest: making citizens and their representatives aware of what the government has sought to conceal. That is, indispensable information for the conduct of a balanced debate on arms contracts tying France to countries accused of war crimes.”
“These proceedings against journalists have no other aim than to reveal our sources. In effect, this summons by the DGSI is an opening to find the principal author of the offense that we were the recipients of: those who allowed to share information in the public interest.
“Let us be clear. This police investigation is an attack on the freedom of the press, which requires the anonymity of a journalist’s sources. An attack that is all the more serious given that the executive power is abusing ‘defense secrets’ to extend the notion of protecting the interests of the nation to include the question of commercial transactions with countries at war...
“To the question: ‘Do the French people have the right to be informed about the use of arms sold to countries accused of war crimes?’, the government has thus chosen to answer with threats.”
The government’s actions were also condemned in a statement signed by 36 French press outlets, including Le Monde and AFP. It states that “defense secrets cannot be opposed to the right to information, indispensable to a dignified public debate, or serve as a Damocles sword to dissuade journalists from investigating and publishing.”
The classified intelligence report leaked to Disclose is entitled “Yemen: Security Situation.” It was presented to Emmanuel Macron for a defense council meeting on October 3, 2018, at which Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of Defense Florence Parly were also present.
Disclose states that satellite images confirm that the artillery has been used in Saudi coalition offensives. French tanks and laser-guided missile systems for aerial bombers were also confirmed to have been used.
The war against Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been waged by the Saudi monarchy since 2014 with the assistance of both the Obama and Trump administrations and the European powers, including Britain and France. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Up to 14 million people, or half the population, face starvation as a result of the Saudi monarchy’s strategy of blockading Yemeni ports to stop supplies of food and humanitarian aid.
The report makes clear that France’s actions are in violation of international law, including the 2014 European treaty on arms trade, which bans arms sales when the country has “knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of” war crimes. It strongly suggests that top Macron administration officials have violated European law.
While the government has refused to respond to the revelations, Minister of Defense Parly tried to downplay their significance last week, telling Radio Classique on April 18 that “to my knowledge, these arms are not used in an offensive manner in this war in Yemen and … in any case I do not have any proof permitting to state that French arms are the source of civilian victims.”
The report merely confirms what has long been known but without formal proof. Since his successful election campaign the French President has been hostile to media that relay information that is unfavorable to him. He has notably regularly refused normal accreditation to RT the Russian state online media service.