Pegasus row
Representative photo. Image credit - www.amnesty.org

A total of 17 journalists from 7 countries, who were listed as potential (actual victims) of Pegasus spyware have filed complaints with prosecutors in Paris against NSO Group and others.

The complaints of the scribes complement the one by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two journalists with French and Moroccan journalists with French and Moroccan dual nationality already filed on July 20.

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also referred their cases to the United Nations.

The 17 journalists include 2 from Azerbaijan, 5 from Mexico, 5 from India, one from Spain, 2 from Hungary, 1 from Morocco and 1 from Togo.

They are among the nearly 200 journalists on the list of persons identified by the Pegasus Project investigation as potential targets or actual victims of clandestine surveillance by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

All of these plaintiffs know or have serious grounds for fearing that they were spied on by their governments as a result of having carried out independent journalistic reporting in the public interest, the RSF said in a report.

The journalists include Azerbaijan’s Sevinc Abassova, Togo’s Ferdinand Ayité, Mexico’s Marcela Turati and Alejandra Xanic, India’s Sushant Singh, Siddharth Varadarajan and MK Venu, and Hungary’s Szabolcs Panyi and András Szabó.

Shubhranshu Choudhary, one of those journalists, is a correspondent of RSF in India.

Several of these victims of Pegasus spyware have been “publicly attacked by their governments for years”, the RSF report said.

They include Morocco’s Hicham Mansouri and India’s Swati Chaturvedi, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize for Courage in 2018, the year that RSF referred her case to the UN.

Some of the journalists were even spied on by foreign governments, the report said.

They include Spain’s Ignacio Cembrero, who was almost certainly the victim of surveillance by Morocco.

“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,” said RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével.

“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,” Adès-Mével added.

RSF has formally referred the cases of these 17 journalists to four UN special rapporteurs asking them to seek explanations from those governments suspected of using Pegasus to spy on these journalists.

RSF is asking the UN special rapporteurs to demand strict international regulation of the exportation, sale and use of spyware such as Pegasus and, in the meantime, an international moratorium on the sale of such software.

And, finally, RSF is asking them to press 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.

In all, 19 journalists filed a complaint in France with RSF and mandated the organization to refer their cases to the United Nations mechanisms:

Maati Monjib and Omar Brouksy, who lodged a complaint with the RSF on July 20, have mandated the RSF to refer the matter to the UN.

RSF included NSO Group in its list of “digital predators” in 2020.

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