French journalist held for two days, charged over book about intelligence agency

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the disproportionate and intimidatory methods used this week by the French judicial authorities against Alex Jordanov, a journalist alleged to have revealed “defence secrets” in a 2019 book about France’s domestic intelligence agency, the DGSI.

After two days in police custody, Jordanov was finally released under judicial supervision on 24 June while being investigated for revealing defence secrets, concealing a breach of professional secrecy, violating the confidentiality of judicial investigations, and publishing information liable to allow the identification of an intelligence agency operative or source.

“The use of such proceedings three years after the book’s publication seems as disproportionate as it is incongruous,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said, calling for an end to the judicial supervision of Jordanov. “We fear that the aim of the authorities in taking this journalist into police custody was to intimidate him. If the confidentiality of journalists’ sources is not safeguarded in a country, if it is weakened by actions such as these, its citizens will be denied the right to unofficial information.”

Entitled The Shadow Wars of the DGSI and published by Nouveau Monde, Jordanov’s book provided details about the agency’s operating methods, including how it recruits, manages and pays its sources.

“Holding a journalist in police custody for 48 hours followed by a night in jail because of his book’s revelations – this is unprecedented,” Jordanov’s lawyer, William Bourdon, told AFP. “This is an extremely serious attack on journalists’ duty to investigate. This heavy-handed operation was clearly intended to intimidate politically in two ways, to deter journalists and police officers from being curious and talkative.”

Two DGSI police officers were also taken into police custody in connection with the same case.

A deliberate attempt to intimidate the media was also suspected in May 2019, when a total of eight journalists received summonses from the DGSI, and some were interrogated. All of them had worked on sensitive stories such as French arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the apparent cover-up of alleged offences by a former presidential security aide.

The eight journalists were Geoffrey Livolsi, Mathias Destal and Michel Despratx of the investigative news site Disclose; Le Monde’s Ariane Chemin; France Inter’s Benoît Collombat; and Valentine Oberti of the TV news show Quotidien along with a Quotidien cameraman and a Quotidien sound technician. Le Monde managing director Louis Dreyfus also received a summons.

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