According to an investigation by Citizen Lab, human rights defenders, high profile journalists and anti-corruption activists in Mexico may have been affected by “Pegasus”, a software which infiltrates mobile devices in order to monitor the movements of someone through their cell phone.
According to the company that creates the software, the tool is exclusively sold to governments, with the condition that it is only used to fight terrorism, criminal groups and drug cartels. The government denies that some of its entities might carry out surveillance or another intervention without previous legal authorization.
In a press conference, journalists and HRDs declared that they will present a complaint to the National Attorney General's Office (PGR) against anyone who is responsible for alleged spying.
R3D, the Network in Defense of Digital Rights, together with Article 19 and SocialTIC, documented 76 attempts by Pegasus to infect the devices of journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico between January 2015 and July 2016, which may have taken place during “critical time periods in their work.” For example, the attempts to hack the Centro Prodh took place during key moments such as the 10th anniversary of the repression in Atenco, the discussion around the General Law against Torture and the presentation of the final report about the Ayotzinapa case by the GIEI.
These organizations demand that an independent panel of experts be granted the ability to oversee the investigation by the PGR, and that contracts and documents about Pegasus be transparent. The OSC+ space demanded that the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists take immediate actions to generate elements for diagnosis and analysis.
The Red TdT expressed concern that other human rights defenders may have also been victims of spying, including members of the Cerezo Committee Mexico (an organization that receives PBI accompaniment).
Jan Jarab, representative of the UNHCHR in Mexico stated that it was “particularly serious” that journalists, activists and defenders are the focus of these actions due to the essential role that they play in a democratic state.
Similarly, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) urged Mexican authorities to carry out an independent and exhaustive investigation with regard to these events and to protect the work of human rights defenders and journalists.