22 members of ‘El Faro’ were intervened with the Pegasus software during Bukele’s mandate

San Salvador. Amnesty International (AI) verified the use of spyware Pegasus, developed by the Israeli company NSO, used to monitor journalists in El Salvador, after Salvadoran media professionals and social leaders received warnings of “state sponsored” espionage in November.

This is shown by a joint investigation carried out by Access Now and Citizen Lab, which indicated that the “abusive” use of the program, verified “independently”, was carried out “on a large scale” in the Central American country. The research sample included several journalists from two media outlets. Forensic analysis confirmed that each device was infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

The first signs of attack on the devices in the sample occurred on July 30, 2020 and continued until November 15, 2021. AI’s America director, Erika Guevara Rosas, concentrated operations in which the use of Pegasus to monitor Communications in El Salvador “reveals a new threat to Human Rights in the country,” while urging the authorities to “stop any effort aimed at restricting freedom of expression.” Similarly, he demanded the opening of an “impartial and exhaustive” investigation to identify those responsible.

Guevara also considered it “unacceptable” that in El Salvador “complaints of harassment and threats against journalists and human rights defenders, who work in a hostile environment and are at serious risk, are becoming more and more daily.” “The international community must accompany human rights defenders and journalists in their demand for respect for Human Rights,” he added.

AI highlighted that, since the president, Nayib Bukele, took office in 2019, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated “rapidly.” Freedom of expression is one of the rights that faces the most “obstacles to its free exercise” and, repeatedly, State officials publicly expressed their refusal to accept dissent, and they also made an effort to discredit those who expose the practices of the authorities that violate or put Human Rights at risk.

In this context, in November 2021, it became public knowledge that journalists and members of civil society organizations received an alert from Apple, in which they were warned that they were possibly being subject to selective surveillance by “sponsored attackers. by a State ”.

‘Not enough has been done’

Guevara also assured that the world continues to “abuse” Pegasus software to “illegally” monitor journalists “on a large scale, even after the important revelations of the Pegasus Project.” “So far not enough has been done globally to stop illegal targeting,” he lamented, noting the “urgency” for governments to “implement a global moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of spyware until they are established. safeguards and guarantees of Human Rights. “

At the beginning of the previous December, the vice president of El Salvador, Víctor Ulloa, assured that he was “not aware of” the alleged espionage. The Pegasus software, developed by the Israeli company NSO, jumped to the center of controversy when last August an investigation by the newspaper ‘The Washington Post’ revealed a list of 50,000 phones, from all over the world, could be targeted by the software.

Among the users of these phones are journalists, activists and businessmen, among other personalities. The program was originally developed to gain access to mobile phones for terrorists, traffickers or pedophiles, but different human rights organizations claim that it is also used by some governments that try to access sensitive and private data from the press.

The Explainer |  Common Pegasus Attack Methods from NSO Group |  The Savior


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