Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Seventeen journalists from seven countries – who were listed as potential or actual victims of surveillance through the Pegasus spyware – have joined Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in filing complaints with prosecutors in Paris against the Israeli NSO Group.
RSF has referred their case to the United Nations.
On July 20, the RSF and two Moroccan-French journalists had filed a joint complaint with prosecutors in Paris, calling on them to “identify those responsible, and their accomplices”, for targeted harassment of journalists. This too was referred to the UN by RSF.
Of the 17 journalists, two are from Azerbaijan, five from Mexico, five from India, one from Spain, two from Hungary, one from Morocco and one from Togo.
From India, The Wire’s co-founders Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Venu, senior journalist Sushant Singh, who also writes for The Wire, Shubhranshu Choudhary, an RSF correspondent in India, and Swati Chaturvedi, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize for Courage in 2018, have filed complaints.
The Wire had revealed that the phone numbers of more than 40 Indian journalists appear on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance. Forensic tests had confirmed that Varadarajan, Venu and Singh’s phones had been compromised with the Pegasus spyware.
Chaturvedi’s phone number was on the list, indicating possible surveillance.
In India, five journalists whose phones The Wire and Amnesty International’s lab found had been compromised have moved the Supreme Court with three separate petitions, calling for an independent inquiry.
“Some were even spied on by foreign governments. They include Spain’s Ignacio Cembrero, who was almost certainly the victim of surveillance by Morocco,” RSF’s press release noted.
“The complaints filed by these journalists, who are from every continent, confirm the scale of the surveillance carried out with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware,” RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével said.
“The investigation should identify all those involved, whether company executives or senior government officials in the countries concerned. In the face of a scandal so fraught with consequences for press freedom, no doubts must remain. The veil must be lifted completely and justice must be done.”
The RSF has also referred the cases of these 17 journalists to four UN special rapporteurs – the rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, the right to privacy, human rights defenders, and protecting human rights while countering terrorism – asking them to seek explanations from those governments suspected of using Pegasus to spy on these journalists.
Apart from this, the RSF has also demanded strict international regulation of the exportation, sale and use of spyware such as Pegasus, and an international moratorium on the sale of such software. It has asked the UN Human Rights Council to adopt an ad hoc mechanism to investigate and shed all possible light on the sale and use of spyware.
The 19 journalists who have filed a complaint in France with the RSF and mandated the organisation to refer their cases to the United Nations mechanisms are as follows:
• Maati Monjib (Morocco)
• Omar Brouksy (Morocco)
• Hicham Mansouri (Morocco)
• Sevinc Abassova (Azerbaijan)
• Mushfig Jabbar (Azerbaijan)
• Ignacio Cembrero (Spain)
• Szabolcs Panyi (Hungary)
• András Szabó (Hungary)
• Swati Chaturvedi (India)
• Sushant Singh (India)
• Siddharth Varadarajan (India)
• MK Venu (India)
• Shubhranshu Choudhary (India)
• Ferdinand Ayité (Togo)
• Marcela Turati (Mexico)
• Alejandra Xanic Von Betrab (Mexico)
• Ignacio Rodriguez Reyna (Mexico)
• Jorge Carrasco (Mexico)
• Alvaro Delgado (Mexico)
Moroccan-French journalists Maati Monjib and Omar Brouksy, who filed a complaint with RSF on July 20, have also mandated RSF to refer the matter to the UN. RSF noted in its release that it has done so.
The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read all our coverage here.