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Top French Journalist Interrogated For Report on Corruption in Macron Government

Ariane Chemin, the French journalist for Le Monde who first broke a story in July 2018 regarding a corruption scandal involving French President Emmanuel Macron’s former security aide, Alexandre Benalla, was questioned Wednesday by France’s domestic intelligence service.

According to Chemin, she was questioned by France's General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) for around 45 minutes with her lawyer present, after the service demanded that she appear for questioning last week, raising questions about the freedom of the press under Macron.

​"I explained that I only did my job as a journalist," she told AFP after the meeting. 

In this picture dated Feb. 24, 2017 French president Emmanuel Macron, center, visits the 55th International Agriculture Fair at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, as Elysee senior security officer Alexandre Benalla, right, looks on - Sputnik International
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"They asked me many questions on the manner in which I checked my information, which was an indirect way of asking me about my sources," Chemin added, also noting that under French law, she has the right to withhold information regarding sources. 

According to a copy of Chemins' police summons obtained by the Washington Post, Chemin is accused of "committing or attempting to commit the offense of revealing or disclosing, by any means, any information that could lead, directly or indirectly, to the identification of a person as a member of special forces."

The summons also states that she may be thrown in jail if she is convicted under France's "state of emergency" laws adopted in April 2016, which were meant to reinforce national security and combat terrorism following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. 

A picture taken on October 11, 2016 shows then French presidential election candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron (R) and Head of Security Alexandre Benalla (2ndR) arriving for a campaign meeting in Le Mans, western France - Sputnik International
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In a Wednesday editorial, Le Monde's editorial director, Luc Bronner, noted, "We [the newspaper] will obviously protect our information, and we express our concerns over this summoning."

However, according to a French official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post, the summons was "the normal functioning of the justice."

"French authorities are of course respectful of the freedom of the press," the official added. 

In July 2018, a video of Benalla punching a young protester in France went viral. The former security aide was charged with multiple offenses, including violent acts, interfering in the work of public services, wearing an official insignia without authorization, concealing video materials and breaching professional secrecy.

Emmanuel Macron, presidente de Francia - Sputnik International
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Following a parliamentary investigation regarding the video, it was revealed that French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, one of Macron's closest allies, was aware of the incident. Subsequent investigations revealed that Benalla had ties with Iskander Makhmudov, a Russian mining mogul. Benalla is believed to have negotiated a corrupt security contract between Makhmudov and a French security firm run by Benalla's acquaintance Vincent Crase to protect Makhmudov's family while in France. 

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