Journalist Marcela Turati has always suspected the Mexican authorities of spying on her. Now, she’s almost certain, after being on a leaked list at the center of a global spyware scandal.
“People wrote to me to say: ‘Look, you were not crazy, you were not paranoid,” she told AFP on Monday.
Some 15,000 Mexican smartphone numbers were among more than 50,000 that were allegedly selected by customers of the Israeli company NSO Group for potential surveillance, according to an international media investigation.
They include figures linked to 25 journalists and even the entourage of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador before he took office.
Although the Mexican license for the Pegasus software acquired under former president Enrique Pena Nieto expired in 2017, Turati believes the surveillance continues in other ways.
“Almost all journalists in Mexico know and feel that we are under some sort of surveillance,” said the award-winning journalist.
“This is something that is assumed, especially because Mexico is among the most dangerous countries to practice the profession,” said the 47-year-old.
The revelations emerged over the weekend as part of a collaborative investigation by the Washington Post, Guardian, Le Monde, Mexican Aristegui Noticias and other media.
One of the Mexican journalists on the list was assassinated in 2017 after criticizing alleged links between politicians and criminals.
Cecilio Pineda was one of more than 100 journalists murdered since 2000 in Mexico, one of the deadliest countries in the world for reporters.
At the time Turati appeared to have been targeted by NSO, she and two colleagues were investigating the corruption scandal engulfing Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.
Emilio Lozoya, former top adviser to Pena Nieto, claimed that Odebrecht’s bribes had been funneled into the ex-chief’s presidential campaign.
Turati also investigated the massacres of migrants and the disappearance of 43 student teachers in 2014, a case that has drawn wide international condemnation.
Relatives of missing students and human rights activists have also been targeted through the ONS, according to the Pegasus Project’s international investigation.
– “No one is being spied on” –
Lopez Obrador, in power since 2018, did not comment directly on the revelations.
But he alluded to it on Monday in comments relating to the case of a missing journalist, saying “no one is being spied on anymore.” Freedoms are guaranteed ”.
The leaked list of smartphone numbers did not include Lopez Obrador himself, according to Aristegui Noticias.
The leftist leader “apparently did not use a personal cell phone” and communicated through his aides, he said.
NSO insists that its software is only intended for use in the fight against terrorism and other crimes.
Mexico was the first country in the world to buy Pegasus from NSO “and has become a kind of laboratory for spy technology,” according to The Guardian.
Mexican agencies that acquired the spyware include the defense ministry, the attorney general’s office and the national security intelligence service, he said.
Lopez Obrador’s wife, children, brother and even his cardiologist were among those selected for potential surveillance using the Pegasus malware between 2016 and 2017, according to Aristegui Noticias.
At the time, Lopez Obrador was the opposition leader and political rival to Pena Nieto.
Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, cabinet ministers and other current government officials have also been identified as potential targets, he said.
There was a “persecution practice of political espionage used by the old regime,” Sheinbaum told Aristegui Noticias, whose director Carmen Aristegui also appears to have been targeted.
© 2021 AFP