France's prime minister on Thursday May 16th defended the interrogation by the secret service of three reporters who published details over French arms sales to the Gulf, after an outcry by press freedom activists.
According to AFP, this week two reporters from the investigative news site Disclose and one correspondent with Radio France were interrogated by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), France's domestic intelligence organisation.
The reason for their interrogation is all because they worked on a Disclose story based on a leaked military intelligence dossier, which showed how French tanks, artillery, and ships sold to France's allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were being used in the war in Yemen.
On Tuesday, Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal of Disclose were questioned and Radio France's Benoit Collombat was quizzed the day after. Livolsi and Destal subsequently denounced their questioning as an "attempt at intimidation".
However, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said while he respected the journalists' right to report, there were also matters which should remain confidential.
"Firstly, I don't think that it intimidates them and secondly it is not done to intimidate them," he told Franceinfo radio.
He described as "very respectable...the desire of journalists to look for information and present it to their readers and their listeners."
"But from where I stand, with the responsibilities that I have, as prime minister, I must also respect law and notably the provisions related to confidentiality," he added.
There has recently been huge controversy in France over whether French arms have been used against civilians in Yemen, something the government in Paris always denies. However, the arrival of a Saudi ship earlier this month off the French port of Le Havre provoked a new outcry and the vessel never docked.
Relief agencies say the Yemen conflict, which has lasted more than four years, has killed tens of thousands, including many civilians.