Moroccan journalist tops list of “10 most urgent cases” for press freedom over surveillance victims

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Governments around the world have used sophisticated spyware designed to fight crime to target the press. Journalists say spyware has the potential to expose its sources, movements, and other private information that could be used to censor or hinder them, or jeopardize or jeopardize their sources. CPJ has also found that these attacks often go hand in hand with other press freedom violations and hamper journalists’ ability to cover important topics on issues such as politics and corruption.

Journalists can find CPJ’s digital security resources here and more spyware and press freedom stories here.

1. Omar Radi (Morocco)

Since 2018, Moroccan authorities have filed charges of sex crimes against several independent journalists in the country with the aim of targeting them for their reporting. Investigative journalist Omar Radi is one of 180 journalists identified by the Forbidden Stories association as being the target of surveillance spyware. Last July, he was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual assault and endangering state security through espionage and the illegal receipt of foreign funds.

2. Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan)

Leading investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is known for exposing high-level government corruption and alleged links between President Ilham Aliyev’s family and businesses. She was sentenced to prison in 2014 and served 538 days before her release. In a forensic analysis of his phone, Amnesty International detected multiple traces of activity related to the Pegasus spyware, dating from 2019 to 2021.

3. Sevinj Vagifgizi (Azerbaijan)

Sevinj Vagifgizi, correspondent for Berlin-based independent Azerbaijan-focused media Meydan TV, was the target of Pegasus spyware from 2019 to 2021. She was previously in the crosshairs of Azerbaijani authorities and has been banned from leaving the country. from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, she faced defamation charges after reporting that people were voting with pre-filled government-issued ballots.

4. Szabolcs Panyi (Hungary)

Reports reveal that in 2019, President Viktor Orbán’s administration spyware Pegasus targeted Szabolcs Panyi among five Hungarian journalists, as conditions for independent journalism become increasingly bleak in the country. Panyi is a journalist at Direkt36.hu, known for reporting on issues such as government corruption.

5. Ricardo Calderon (Colombia)

Throughout 2019 and 2020, Ricardo Calderón, then director of the investigative team of the news magazine Semana, was the target of threats, harassment and surveillance related to reports on the Colombian military, including efforts to monitor journalists. This year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that Calderón faces “grave and imminent” danger caused by threats and surveillance from the Colombian military and other sources.

6. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (India)

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist and author, has been the subject of lengthy criminal and civil libel suits and has recently been threatened with arrest. Amnesty International detected forensic indications related to Pegasus spyware since early 2018 on his phone, while writing about political parties using social media to campaign politically and investigating the foreign assets of a wealthy Indian business family.

7. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Citizen Lab, a team from the University of Toronto that studies media, security and human rights, discovered that spyware Pegasus had infected the phone of Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who was in close contact with the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi before his assassination by Saudi agents on October 2, 2018. Research has shown that journalists’ family and colleagues are often the target of surveillance.

8. Ismael Bojórquez and Andrés Villarreal (Mexico)

After the assassination of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, founder of Mexican outlet Río Doce in 2017, the manager of Río Doce and his colleague received attempts to infect their phone with the Pegasus spyware, some of the attempts claiming to have information about Valdez’s death.

9. Carmen Aristegui (Mexico)

Aristegui Noticias, the outlet run by one of Mexico’s best-known journalists, has denounced numerous corruption scandals. Carmen Aristegui was heavily targeted, alongside her son (a miner) with NSO spyware links between 2015-2016, according to Citizen Lab.

ten. Ahmed Mansour (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)

Researchers report that prominent political blogger Ahmed Mansoor has been the target of hackers on several occasions, starting in 2011, when CPJ documented threats and lawsuits related to his blog.


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