Top French journalist summoned by intelligence service

Paris (AFP) –


A senior reporter at France's Le Monde daily who broke the story of an explosive scandal concerning a security aide to President Emmanuel Macron has been summoned for questioning by the domestic intelligence service, the newspaper said Wednesday.

Ariane Chemin was told by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) to appear on May 29, Le Monde's editorial director Luc Bronner wrote in the paper.

The summons comes as concern grows in France over pressure on journalists by the DGSI after three other reporters were questioned by the organisation earlier this month.

Chemin has written a series of articles over the former presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was fired last year after he was filmed roughing up a protester in one of the biggest scandals to shake Macron to date.

It was a July 18 article by Chemin that first reported that Benalla had beaten the May Day demonstrator while wearing a police helmet.

The Elysee has been accused of covering up the affair by failing to report Benalla to the authorities.

"We stand by our information and express our concern about this summons," Bronner said.

"It is in the public interest to be able to investigate aides inside the Elysee and the Matignon and their outside links and associates," he said, referring to the French presidency and the office of the prime minister.

He said the summons stemmed in particular from articles about former air force officer Chokri Wakrim, the partner of Marie-Elodie Poitout, the ex-head of security at the prime minister's office.

Poitout resigned her post after media revelations that she and Wakrim had welcomed Benalla to their home in July but insisted it had only been a social affair.

The secret service has already questioned three reporters who published details over how French arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were being used in Yemen's civil war, sparking an outcry by press freedom activists.

The new summons "is all the more worrying as it follows a similar procedure used very recently against other journalists," Bronner said.

They had worked on a story published on the investigative website Disclose based on a leaked military intelligence dossier showing how French tanks, artillery and ships sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE were being used in Yemen.

A fourth journalist working for Disclose has also been summoned to appear before the DGSI as a witness in an "inquiry over compromising the national defence secrecy", the website said Wednesday.

Senior journalists from 37 French media outlets, including Agence France-Presse, Le Figaro daily, France 2 TV and Mediapart, signed a statement supporting the three journalists who were questioned, saying they were "just doing their jobs".