Civil organizations took to the Attorney’s General Office (PGR) to denounce the documented espionage attempts against journalists, activists and human rights advocates by way of the malware known as Pegasus. They also requested for cautionary measures to be taken to protect the affected parties.
With the support of a solid investigation assisted by technological tools, human rights and transparency advocates, accountability watchdogs and investigative journalists warned that such actions, for which they blame the federal government, are nothing short of harassment and censorship.
“Espionage in Mexico has turned into an effective mechanism for the intimidation of human rights advocates, activists and journalists. It constitutes a powerful tool for the control of information, flow and for the abuse of power,” warned Ana Cristina Ruelas Serna, head of Artículo 19.
The Government Espionage Report, made public Monday, reveals that between 2015 and 2016 the Network for the Defense of Digital Rights, Artículo 19 and SocialTIC documented 76 attempts to infect the equipment of journalists and human rights advocates with the malware known as Pegasus.
Amongst the documented targets are: Salvador Camarena, Daniel Lizárraga, Juan Pardinas, Alexandra Zapata, Carlos Loret the Mola, Carmen Aristegui, Rafael Cabrera, Mario Patrón, Stephanie Brower and Santiago Aguirre.
The report also reveals that Mexico is “by far” the country in which has contributed the most to Pegasus’ presence, surpassing the likes of Yemen and Israel.
In view of the facts revealed by the investigation, Ruela Serna pressed the Mexican government to account for “the arbitrary and indiscriminate use of tools for espionage and to explain the use given to the information obtained, as well as for investigations that lead to the punishment of those responsible.”
Carmen Aristegui, one of the journalists targeted with Pegasus, said that the report has provided Mexicans with “a smoking gun” regarding espionage of civilians.
During a press conference, she stated that President Enrique Peña Nieto, as Mexico’s head of state, “should provide an explanation” because “vile and treacherous” espionage is a crime against journalists, human rights advocates and government critics.
“It’s quite clear that they want us to know they’re spying on us. They want us to feel vulnerable, for us to be aware that they know about our children, about or private lives and also about our jobs, about what is it that we’re working on, what is it that we’re investigating. All of it just to intimidate, to harass and to censor,” said journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.