Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) is outraged by reports that more than 180 journalists – including from the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) – appear to have been targets of sophisticated military-grade spyware.
“Targeting journalists’ private conversations in any way is unconscionable,” said USAGM Acting CEO Kelu Chao. “This abuse must stop, and reporters’ security must be protected.”
An investigation by a consortium of media outlets called the Pegasus Project found that spyware designed for governments to track terrorists was used to try to hack into smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives, and government officials. The spyware tool, called Pegasus was developed by Israeli company NSO Group.
The Washington Post, which is part of the consortium, reported that among the journalists targeted were a few from VOA. And a new report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which is also part of the consortium, said the Azerbaijan government has been using the Pegasus software to spy on hundreds of local activists and journalists, including five current and former RFE/RL correspondents. Among them is Khadija Ismayilova, former RFE/RL Baku bureau chief and one of that nation’s most renowned investigative journalists.
The investigation was coordinated by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories with the technical support from Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
“This investigation represents the caliber of journalism USAGM promotes and protects. New technology should help journalists do their jobs better, but not be used to spy on and harass them,” Chao added.
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