French Journalist Detained Over Investigation Exposing State Secrets

Published: 25 September 2023

Ariane LavrilleuxAriane Lavrilleux is a freelance journalist who investigates armament, human rights, and environmental issues. (Photo: Ariane Lavrilleux/X, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

French authorities detained journalist Ariane Lavrilleux and searched her home in connection with her 2021 investigation that revealed how French intelligence services allegedly helped Egyptian authorities find smugglers operating on the border between Egypt and Libya and kill them.

Lavrilleux is a researcher with the non-profit organization Disclose and co-author of the "Egypt Papers" investigation, first published in November 2021, which revealed classified state documents linking France to the arbitrary crimes committed by the current president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

According to Disclose, Lavrilleux was taken into custody by officers of the Directorate General of Internal Security (DGSI) who were accompanied by a judge. The operation was said to be part of an investigation into the disclosure of national defense secrets and information that could lead to the identification of a protected agent, opened in July 2022.

She could now face up to five years in prison for allegedly revealing confidential information.

The officers searched Lavrilleux's property for 10 hours and checked her computer and mobile devices. They also interrogated the journalist about her investigation.

“The real aim of this procedure, as of the previous ones, is clear: the French state wants to identify our sources. Those who enabled us to reveal, with confidential documents, France's complicity in potential crimes against humanity in Yemen and Egypt. These sources took the risk of talking to us in order to reveal information of public interest. We do everything in our power to protect their identity and safety,” her outlet stated.

Through leaked documents, the “Egypt Papers” revealed details of Operation Sirli, in which France allegedly collaborated with Egypt in aerial surveillance of Egypt's border territory with Libya. Reconnaissance systems were used to conduct more than 100 bombings to kill civilians suspected of smuggling. The investigation also revealed million-dollar arms sales and how three French surveillance companies sold their technologies to Egypt with French permission.

“It is very worrying that after the revelations that France was complicit in extrajudicial executions in Egypt, it is the journalist who is targeted rather than the alleged perpetrators,” said the Amnesty International Secretary General.