Spyware Pegasus: Hungary rejects allegations, France wants to investigate
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has denied claims that his country is monitoring journalists or activists using Pegasus software from Israeli manufacturer NSO, according to a press report. When questioned, the director of the IH secret service denied that the service used the software, Szijjarto said after a report by the Telex.hu news portal on Monday in Komarom, northern Hungary.
Not a complete denial
The service under his ministry is ready to provide information to the Hungarian Parliament’s Security Committee. The opposition wants to call a special meeting of the committee on the allegations. IH is one of the five Hungarian secret services. Szijjártó did not want to say whether another authority could have been monitoring people through Pegasus, as Telex.hu reported.
An international consortium of journalists had previously published new allegations against NSO. According to this information, traces of attacks with the company’s Pegasus software were found on 37 smartphones of journalists, human rights activists, their family members and businessmen. The numbers are part of a dataset of more than 50,000 phone numbers that journalists have reviewed with the organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. According to reports, the numbers were apparently selected by NSO customers as potential spy targets. NSO dismissed the allegations on Sunday.
As the Hungarian research group Direk36 reports, there have been more than 300 potential surveillance targets in Hungary. It has been proven that four Hungarian journalists and a photographer were monitored, as well as several businessmen and ex-politicians. According to his own information, Direk36 is part of the consortium of journalists. Since taking office for the first time in 2010, the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán has pursued a restrictive and internationally criticized media policy, directed against the press which criticizes the government.
Indignation in France
In France, government spokesman Gabriel Attal reacted with astonishment and indignation to the media revelations. “This is of course an extremely shocking fact,” Attal told franceinfo on Monday. He announced – not detailed – investigations. “We are very attached to the freedom of the press,” he added. As reported by the daily Le Monde, the Pegasus list includes around thirty journalists and managers of media companies in France. The online platform Mediapart reported that the cellphones of two of the company’s journalists were targeted by the Pegasus software during the period 2019-2020 – the Moroccan secret service was behind them, according to the allegation. “We file a complaint with the public prosecutor of Paris,” writes Mediapart.
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