Three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested in Paris on Wednesday for illegally flying a drone in the city. French news agencies report that drones have appeared on several occasions in recent days above the Eiffel Tower and other Parisian monuments.
The Al Jazeera employees, all of whom are foreign nationals, were aged 36, 54 and 70, according to reports. Police officials said the employees of the Doha-based company were found flying a drone near the Bois de Boulogne woods in western Paris. Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, the Paris prosecutor’s office spokeswoman, said the motives of the journalists remain unclear.
Under French law, the journalists can face a maximum prison term of one year and an $85,000 dollar fine.
From Tuesday to Wednesday, police sighted at least one drone in the skies of Paris on five different occasions, all of which took place from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. local time. Another drone was spotted on Monday flying over the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
An Al Jazeera journalist will appear in court next week to face charges, the BBC has reported.
Al Jazeera has come out and claimed that they were filming a report about the “recent mystery drones” over Paris skies. The Qatar network said two of the three men were cleared of charges.
“People should not be worried but vigilant — it’s an issue which is taken very seriously,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters.
The Al Jazeera news network has a history rife with controversy and alleged ties to Muslim extremism.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks against America, the network’s headquarters in Doha reportedly put on display silhouettes honoring former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. In 2013, dozens of its staff resigned in protest of the network’s “biased coverage,” which allegedly became a PR arm for the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Al Jazeera has abandoned even the semblance of a credible media outlet, and it broadcasts — both within Gaza and outside it, to the world — anti-Semitic incitement, lies provocation and encouragement to terrorists,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said of the network’s reporting on Israel’s 50-day war against Palestinian terror group Hamas.
In late January, an internal memo revealed that Al Jazeera’s United States offices banned the use of the words “terrorist,” Jihadist,” Islamist,” and “extremist” from their reporting.