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Investigative website wins Visa d’or award for exposing French weapons in Yemen

Anthony Ravera, FMM | Disclose journalists pick up the Visa d’or for Best Digital News award in Perpignan on September 5, 2019.

The investigative website Disclose has won the Visa d’or for Best Digital News for its part in revealing the extent of French weaponry being used in Yemen’s gruesome civil war.

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The award, which is sponsored by FRANCE 24’s parent company France Media Monde, was presented on Thursday at the annual Visa pour l'image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, in southwest France.

Disclose’s investigation is centred on a leaked classified note by France's DRM military intelligence agency detailing the position of French-made arms used by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In addition to the leaked document, it uses satellite images, video and photographs to show that the Saudi-led coalition has made much wider use of French arms than officials in Paris acknowledge, and that swathes of Yemen’s civilian population live within their range.

>> France under pressure to come clean over arms exports in Yemen war

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has repeatedly claimed that French arms sold to Saudi Arabia and its allies are used solely for defensive purposes, a stance that has become increasingly hard to maintain as the death toll from the devastating conflict continues to rise.

The four-year conflict has shattered the country’s economy and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, whose investigators say both sides may have committed war crimes. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed during the conflict and some 10 million people have been driven to the brink of famine.

The scale of the bloodshed has prompted growing criticism of the Western powers – chief among them the US, Britain and France – that arm the Saudi-led coalition.

France is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, its sales having increased fourfold under Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande. Between 2008 and 2017, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were, respectively, its second and sixth biggest export markets, according to the French defence ministry.

Disclose founders Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal, along with journalist Benoît Collombat, were summoned by France’s domestic intelligence agency in May after the French defence ministry filed a complaint for “compromising national defence secrecy”.

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