Mexico: Allegations of spying on journalists and human rights activists must be investigated

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH–OMCT) urges the Mexican Secretariat of National Defence (SEDENA), the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR) and the Centre for Research and National Security to investigate allegations of spying on journalists and human rights activists in Mexico.

General
Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda
Secretary of National Defence,

Mr
Raúl Cervantes Andrade
Attorney General of Mexico,

Mr
Eugenio Ímaz Gispert
Director General of the Centre for Research and National Security,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the context of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) express their concern over reports that spyware is being used to monitor journalists and human rights activists in Mexico [1]. They therefore call upon the Secretariat of National Defence (SEDENA), the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR) and the Centre for Research and National Security to conduct the requisite investigation and to punish those responsible.

Information published by the Mexican NGOs Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D), Social TIC and Art. 19, with technical support from Citizen Lab, a research centre at the University of Toronto, points to evidence of a number of cases where the Mexican government has used sophisticated computer software to spy on journalists and human rights activists [2]].

Pegasus, as this spyware is known, monitors all of the personal information pertaining to the owner of the infected mobile phone, including their emails, call history, calendar and text messages, and is said to have a unit cost of US$77,000 that is charged to the taxpayer.

Other governments in Latin America have engaged in similar practices, as seen in the DAS wire-tapping scandal in Colombia [3] and the espionage case involving corporations Vale and Belo Monte in Brazil [4]. Such actions represent an attack on freedom of expression and association and the right to privacy, and, above all, criminalise the work of journalists and human rights activists by making them the focus of software used on a global scale to counter criminals and terrorists.

In light of the above, the Observatory urges the Mexican authorities to carry out the requisite independent and exhaustive investigation into the facts behind these allegations, to ensure that those responsible are appropriately punished and to protect the work of journalists and human rights activists who find themselves at risk and facing threats and intimidation.

Yours sincerely,
Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President
Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) is a programme created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. Its role is to intervene to prevent or resolve situations of repression against human rights activists. Both OMCT and FIDH are members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union’s mechanism for human rights defenders, which is led by an international consortium of civil society organisations.

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