EU governments are facing accusations of monitoring the communications of reporters without any accountability or oversight. Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld expressed concerns over these allegations following reports that an EU state used Israeli-developed malware to spy on a Russian opposition journalist.
Galina Timchenko, the founder of the anti-Kremlin news site Meduza, revealed that her phone had been tapped with Pegasus malware before she met with other Russian opposition reporters in Berlin earlier this year. Researchers from the University of Toronto and Access Now conducted an investigation and concluded that an EU state was responsible for the hack.
While the Latvian government, where Timchenko is based, denied any involvement, German authorities refused to comment on the matter. Both countries have access to the Pegasus software developed by Israeli company NSO. The incident raises concerns about the potential abuse of surveillance technology by EU governments.
A report compiled by in ‘t Veld highlighted the use of Pegasus by several EU countries to monitor their opponents. Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Spain were identified as governments that have utilized the spyware for surveillance purposes.
In response to these revelations, in ‘t Veld criticized the lack of accountability and oversight in the use of spyware by EU governments. She likened the situation to the movie “The Lives of Others,” which portrays the pervasive surveillance conducted by the East German Stasi. She emphasized that there is no way to determine if the actions of EU states in surveilling individuals like Timchenko are legitimate or proportionate.
Meduza’s editor-in-chief, Ivan Kolpakov, speculated that the hack was likely carried out by a European security service. While it is unclear whether Latvia or another country was responsible, Kolpakov noted that Meduza has a significant presence in Latvia.
The Pegasus malware, once installed on a target’s phone, allows the hacker to access and monitor various aspects of the device, including messages, photos, location, camera, and microphone. The leaked list of NSO clients in 2021 revealed that over 50,000 politicians, journalists, activists, and business figures had been subjected to surveillance using this malware.
The use of powerful surveillance technology like Pegasus raises serious concerns about individual privacy and government overreach. The lack of transparency and oversight in EU governments’ utilization of such spyware further exacerbates these concerns. The allegations against EU states highlight the urgent need for comprehensive regulations and safeguards to protect the privacy and rights of individuals, particularly journalists and activists who play a crucial role in democracy and holding governments accountable.
In light of these revelations, the public and civil society organizations should continue to demand transparency, accountability, and stronger regulations to prevent the misuse of surveillance technology. It is imperative to strike a balance between security measures and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. Only through these efforts can the potential for abuse and overreach be minimized, ensuring a democratic and privacy-respecting society for all.