They were stopped at a police roadblock in the Col de l’Echelle mountain pass in southeastern department of Hautes-Alpes on the night of 11 November while travelling in vehicles driven by residents of the nearby Briançon area, who were bringing four migrants (all minors) into France clandestinely.
Christinaz and Krafft were released but were ordered to report to police in the town of Briançon the next day.
During interrogation the next morning, Christinaz discovered that she was being investigated on suspicion of “assisting the illegal entry, circulation or presence of foreigners in French territory,” a charge punishable by a heavy fine or up to five years in prison.
She showed the police her press card and explained that she was working on a story at the time of her arrest.
“For two hours, most of the questions put to me were designed to obtain information about my sources and the people I was with,” Christinaz said, adding that she repeatedly told the police that she wanted to avail herself of her right as a journalist to protect her sources.
Christinaz said they police also demanded her mobile phone and its access codes and questioned her about her private life with the aim of estimating her financial resources and the size of any eventual fine. Finally, they photographed her and took her fingerprints.
“Doing a report on migrants should not be regarded as a crime,” RSF deputy editor in chief Catherine Monnet said. “Treating journalists as suspects when they are just doing their job is an obstruction of the right to practice journalism. We also point out that journalists cannot be forced to reveal their sources because the right of journalists to protect their sources is enshrined in France’s 1881 press law.”
The police treated Krafft as witness when they questioned him separately on the afternoon of 12 November, a few hours after Christinaz. So far, the two journalists have no idea whether the French authorities intend to take any further action in this matter.
France is ranked 39th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.