Report: Mexico has continued to spy on journalists, human rights defenders

Published: Monday, October 3, 2022 - 4:13pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 - 8:13am
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A new report published by a digital rights advocacy group says that the current Mexican government has continued to illegally spy on civilians despite promises to end the practice.

The phones of at least two journalists and a human rights defender were infected with spyware known as Pegasus — which can break into cell phones to access their content, microphones and cameras.

That’s according to a new report published by the digital rights organization R3D, or the Network for the Defense of Digital Rights.

In 2017, widespread use of Pegasus, created by Israeli company NSO Group, was detected under the previous Mexican administration. But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly promised his government ended the practice.

During a press conference on the report Monday, Leopoldo Maldonado with the press freedom group Article 19 said the new revelations leave only two possibilities:

"The first is that the present lied to the people of Mexico, and the second, that the armed forces was spying behind the president's back and disobeyed the direct orders of their chief commander," he said. "Both scenarios demonstrate that promises and words are insufficient to prevent intelligence systems from being used without any democratic control against the people of Mexico."

Whether with or without permission, he said, the Mexican military continues to violate human rights with impunity.

The three people reportedly targeted with Pegasus have all investigated human rights abuses carried out by Mexico’s armed forces and say they believe that is the reason their phones were infected with the spyware.

Investigators behind the reported added that information recently obtained by hackers known as Guacamaya also revealed that the Mexican military sought to purchase the spyware during this administration.