Ariane Lavrilleux, a journalist who unveiled concerning details of a potential intelligence breach involving France and Egypt, has been released from police custody. Her detention, considered a rare coercive measure, has ignited public outrage in France.
Lavrilleux was set free on Wednesday evening after spending 48 hours in detention. Authorities have stated that they are investigating her articles regarding a possible connection between French intelligence activities and an Egyptian operation.
Expressing her gratitude for the support, Lavrilleux shared her release on social media, accompanied by a photo of her raising her fist in front of an Egyptian flag.
Her investigative work was published on Disclose, which in November 2021 alleged that a French intelligence mission called “Sirli,” initiated in February 2016 in the name of counterterrorism for Egypt, had been compromised by the Egyptian government.
According to the report, Egyptian authorities used the gathered information to conduct airstrikes on vehicles suspected of smuggling on the Egyptian-Libyan border.
Response to allegations
In response to these allegations, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces filed a complaint for “violation of national defense secrecy.” The preliminary investigation began in November 2021, with an examining magistrate appointed in the summer of 2022.
Disclose, a hybrid news outlet and NGO founded by two investigative journalists in 2018, is solely funded by donations to ensure editorial independence. Their investigative content is accessible to the public without paywalls.
The site further revealed on social media that, according to their information, investigators from France’s General Directorate for Internal Security accuse Lavrilleux of publishing “five articles on French arms sales abroad” since 2019. These articles cover topics such as the “Sirli” operation, “the sale of 30 Rafale aircraft to Egypt,” “arms deliveries to Russia until 2020,” “the sale of 150,000 shells to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” and “the illicit arms transfer from the UAE to Libya.”
Lavrilleux’s arrest has triggered widespread condemnation of the police’s actions and an outpouring of support. Amnesty International decried it as “an attack on journalists… who try to expose the opaque actions of French intelligence services,” while Paul Coppin of Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about the “escalation in the means used [to obtain information on journalists’ sources].”
At a rally in Place de la République in Paris, the president of Disclose asserted that Lavrilleux’s arrest sends a clear message to journalists investigating state secrets. Demonstrators called for the “right to protection of sources” to be enshrined in the French constitution. Gatherings were also held in Marseille and Lyon, in solidarity with the journalist who had been in police custody.