Secret defense and freedom to inform, a standoff over Yemen

Yemen
Girls stand at a camp for people displaced by conflict in Yemen's Houthi-controlled northwestern province of al-Jawf, October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — On May 14, three journalists will be heard on the premises of the ISB after issuing a note classified “confidential defense” proving the use of French weapons in Yemen. Revelations that take the opposite of the version supported by the executive. François Nénin, professor of investigative journalism, returns to the file.

“We are quite surprised, as journalists, to be now criminally responsible for having done our job,” Geoffrey Livolsi, co-director of the publication of the Disclose research website , told RFI.

Tuesday, May 14, the two co-founders of the young news site, as well as Benoît Collombat, of the cell investigation of Radio France, will be heard by the DGSI. Internal security is responsible for conducting the preliminary investigation opened on December 13, 2018 by the Paris prosecutor’s office for” compromising the secrecy of national defense,” following a complaint by the Ministry of the Armed Forces. She will audition them under the status of “free suspects”.

“We can imagine that it is not just for drinking coffee ” was released on the set of France Inter, Mathias Destal, the other co-director of the publication of Disclose about this convocation. “The only reason for calling us today is to know the sources that allowed us to publish this first survey of Disclose,” he adds.

A survey conducted in partnership with Arte Info , the investigation unit of Radio France , Konbini , Mediapart and The Intercept. Whatever the medium, the two journalists insist on their intention to “keep silent” about their sources. “We will be very firm on protecting the sources of our journalists, “said lawyer Virginie Marquet, the lawyer for Disclose , whose two co-directors did not respond to our requests.

“Generally, the ulterior motive is to identify the sources,” confirms Sputnik François Nénin, professor of investigative journalism, emphasizing the secret nature of the note fleeing by journalists.

“Journalists have the right to oppose to judges the secrecy of sources and this is a fundamental principle of our profession. That is to say, if we are no longer able, as journalists, to guarantee our sources that we will not reveal their names, well in this case there is no longer this relationship of trust that is indispensable between the journalist and his source. It is a direct attack, all the mechanisms of journalism crumble in this case, “warns François Nénin at the microphone Sputnik.

It does not exclude that such a summons is also intended to” calm the ardor of investigative journalists”, evoking another case he keeps in mind:

“There have been precedents, yes. A dozen years ago, there was a journalist, Guillaume Dasquié, who was investigating a lot of geopolitics, who had written books – it was about the bin Laden era and Saudi Arabia’s funding of terrorism. He had also been the subject of a rather strong arrest by the DST. Here again, the goal is to know the sources and then to calm the ardor of the investigative journalists.”

It must be said that in their investigation “Made in France”, put forward on the site of the media “non-profit” in its English version, documents that, according to journalists,” prove that French weapons can kill civilians in Yemen “are no more or less from the Military Intelligence Directorate (DRM). Even more embarrassing, this note classified” confidential defense”, the first of three levels of French military secrecy, contradicts the official version of the executive, which has always denied any direct involvement of French weapons in the conflict.

“To my knowledge, the weapons that were sold recently are not used against the civilian population” said again on October 30, 2018 Florence Parly, at the microphone of Jean-Jacques Bourdin on BFMTV. In this widely-publicized interview, the Minister of Armies is keen to “share” the “indignation” at the terrible humanitarian toll of the war in Yemen, where according to the UN, nearly 16 million people would not have access to drinking water.

More recently, it was Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, who declared on February 13, 2019 before the National Assembly that ” we are not providing anything to the Saudi Air Force. It is better that things be said definitively to avoid repetition on the subject,” recalled FranceInfo during the publication of the survey.

However, according to the journalists, who insist on the “lie of state”, the famous note of the DRM dated 25 September 2018 would have been presented to the Head of State as well as the Minister of the Armed Forces and that his counterpart of Europe and Foreign Affairs on October 3, 2018, during the restricted defense council devoted to the war in Yemen. “This is where it is devastating for them, this document is that this document is theirs,” said Geoffrey Livolsi, pointing out that notions such as being in “defensive position” are inept for war material in the context of a conflict.

Moreover, if the report documents the presence “on the Saudi side at the Saudi-Yemeni border (on the defensive)” of artillery batteries of French manufacture (155 FH 70, M-198 towed guns and self-propelled guns Caesar PLZ-45 and M109), the DRM emphasizes that in addition to fire-fighting against assaults and attempts at rebel infiltration, these artillery pieces “also support loyalist troops supported by the Saudi armed forces, in their Yemeni territory.”

The Directorate of Military Intelligence estimates that 436,370 people, the “population potentially affected by possible artillery strikes” present in the 5,471 km² of the Yemeni territory (1.21% of the country) covered by Saudi batteries. By cross-checking this information with that of the American NGO Acled, Disclose points out that 35 civilians died during “localized bombing in the field of action of these guns” between March 2016 and December 2018.

Equally embarrassing for France, which feeds Saudis and Emiratis in this conflict, the intelligence note also notes the presence of Yemeni side tanks Leclerc emiratis or the use by the Saudi air force nacelles laser designation Damocles during his strikes . More specifically, the note confirms the use in Yemeni territory of Cougar assault transport helicopters, Mirages 2000-9 and A330 MRTT tanker aircraft, as well as the participation of French-made frigates (al-Madinah class). and Makkah) to the naval blockade and even support for land-based operations on the Yemeni coastline, in the case of the Baynunah class missile corvette.

A French contribution to a conflict where “a child dies every 11 minutes”, according to a UN report published on April 23, which is not limited to logistics. As pointed out by The Indian Ocean Newsletter – a confidential and normally well-informed media – in March 2016, the French Navy would have taken over from the kingdom’s fleet when it was unable to ensure the continuity of the blockade maritime.

“The problem is that there is no exercise in the control of arms sales in France by the government. This remains a totally opaque business sector. So, we can consider that it is normal that journalists are interested in it, since the goal is still of public utility”, develops François Nénin.

For their part, the press unions and many French news organizations denounced a ” violation of the freedom of the press ” after the journalists revealed this convocation of the DGSI.

For their part, the journalists of Disclose , aware that the French law – by the law Sapin II on the protection of the whistleblowers- ” excludes from the regime of the alert” the facts, information or documents covered by the secret of national defense,” stress that they have accepted the request for anonymity from their sources.

At the microphone of France Inter, they insist on the fact that the publication of this note does not endanger the operations of the French soldiers, nor the agents on the ground, but that it would be “in fact the after-sales service of the follow-up of the French weapons”.

“These are obviously strategic topics, which often provoke epidermal reactions from the power, but as one of the founding fathers of investigative journalism said, our goal is to bring the pen into the wound. When there is a problem, a dysfunction of the state, it is also up to the journalists to reveal it.”

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