Pegasus Spyware System

The European Parliament decided to award the Daphne Caruana Galizia prize for research by the Forbidden Stories consortium, in its first edition. The award, announced this morning in Brussels, two days before the anniversary of the Maltese journalist’s death, was designed to reward “a journalism of excellence that reflects the values ​​of the European Union (EU)” and is worth 20,000 euros.

David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, speaking from Italy as he was convalescing, began by greeting the family of Caruana Galizia present in Brussels and recalled “the terrible murder” of a “fighter for democracy and freedom”, having recalled also the names of other journalists murdered in the last year, as well as the award of the Nobel 2021 to freedom of information in the people of Maria Ressa and Dimitri Muratov: “a decision that came at a fair moment”.

The jury, composed of journalists from all EU countries, and which includes the Portuguese Patrícia Fonseca (Médiotejo, former journalist of Visão), focused on more than 200 competing works, having reached a list of 15 finalists, ” high quality works”, as confirmed to the TSF Luís Menendez, Galician journalist and member of the board of the International Federation of Journalists (FIJ).

The Forbidden Stories consortium’s journalistic investigation into the Pegasus spyware system revealed that the phones of 14 heads of state and government and hundreds of government officials around the world may have been spied on by Pegasus software, marketed by the Israeli company NSO Group.

The list included the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Egyptian Prime Minister, as well as the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan , Moroccan Saad-Eddine El Othmani, Lebanese Saad Hariri, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, and Belgian Charles Michel, current president of the Council of Europe.

The list contained the telephone numbers of more than 600 government officials and politicians from 34 countries.

“The unprecedented revelation that the phones of at least 14 heads of state have been pirated using the NSO Group’s Pegasus software should send a shiver down the spine of world leaders,” the Secretary General commented at the time of the disclosure. of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard.

“We have long known that activists and journalists are targets of this kind of phone hacking, but it is clear that even those at the highest levels of power cannot escape the sinister spread of NSO spyware,” he said.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize is intended to recognize the essential role of journalists in “preserving our democracies and will serve to remind citizens of the importance of a free press. This prize is intended to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they carry out and to show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists”, stressed, at the time of the public announcement of the award, the vice-president of the European Parliament (EP), Heidi Hautala.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist whose journalistic work focused on corruption, money laundering, organized crime, selling citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. After some episodes of harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion, on October 16, 2017.

Protests over the authorities’ handling of the investigation into his murder eventually led to the resignation of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. In December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action on the flaws in the investigation into the murder.

In a report published on April 28, 2021, the “Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists” counted 201 serious violations of press freedom in 2020. That number represents a 40% increase over to 2019 and is the highest recorded since the platform was created in 2014. A record number of alerts focused on physical aggression (52 cases) and harassment or intimidation (70 cases).

The investigation of Pegasus

The Pegasus investigation is the result of an innovative collaboration of more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit media outlet with technical support from Amnesty International, which conducted state-of-the-art forensic tests on mobile phones to identify traces of the ‘software’.

The NSO denied that Macron and Mohammed VI ever appeared on a target list for customers.

The company insisted that its ‘software’ was only intended for use against terrorists and serious criminals and reiterated that it would “investigate all allegations of misuse” and “take vigorous action” whenever such allegations prove to be correct.

The legacy of Daphne Caruana

Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of the murdered journalist, after working for three years as a journalist for a newspaper in San José, Costa Rica, has returned home and, with his family, manages the foundation in Malta with the name of his mother whose mission is to continue the journalist’s legacy, that is, the constant scrutiny of powers, because it is something that “it is important to continue to do every day”, as she told the TSF, this Wednesday night.

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