Mexican Government Allegedly Spent $80 Million To Spy On Journalists

In theory, espionage is based on the premise that no one will ever find out some people or groups are being spied on. But apparently, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto didn't get the memo.

This Monday, three NGOs – Artículo 19, R3D and Social TIC – supported by an investigation carried out by Citizen Lab Canada, published an article in the New York Times to reveal that the Mexican government has allegedly spent $80 million on spyware dedicated to spying on journalists, human rights defenders, activists and lawyers working on the case of the 43 disappeared students. 

This spyware, called Pegasus, comes from Israel. And originally, it was conceived to spy on terrorists and high-profile criminals. However, the malware system is now being (mis)used to infect the devices of several political actors.

Who is being watched?

The list is quite long. It includes famous Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui and her underage kid, journalists Rafael Cabrera, Sebastián Barragán, Carlos Loret de Mola, Daniel Lizárraga and Salvador Camarena. It also includes scientist Simón Barquera, from the Public Health Institute and Juan Pardinas, CEO of the Mexican Institute For Competitiveness. 

In an almost insulting press release, Peña Nieto's spokesman Daniel Millán Valencia responded that "there is no proof whatsoever that Mexican government agencies are responsible for the alleged spying." The note also states that: 

"For the Mexican government, the respect for privacy and the protection of the personal data of all individuals are inherent values of our liberty, democracy and rule of law."

Lastly, the press release invites people "who could have been victims of the actions described in the article" to present their complaints to the Attorney General’s office... That, of course, makes perfect sense, as the Attorney General's Office is exactly one of those government agencies accused.

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