SAN SALVADOR ( Associated Press) — A group of employees of El Salvador’s online newspaper El Faro has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the maker of the Pegasus spyware, the newspaper’s editor, Carlos Dada, said Wednesday.
“The lawsuit is a precedent so that the companies that distribute the program know that attacking the freedom of the press has consequences,” Dada said on the official El Faro Twitter account.
The 15 journalists, represented by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, and other members of El Faro sued NSO Group, the maker of the software that was used to infiltrate their iPhones and track their conversations. and moves silently.
The chief’s director explained that they resort to the courts of another country “because there is no possibility of obtaining justice in El Salvador.”
Dada said that “these spyware attacks were an attempt to silence our sources and discourage us from doing journalism.”
NSO Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
NSO Group’s Pegasus program can infect smartphones and give spyware operators access to contact lists, calendar entries, text messages, email, search history, GPS locations and more.
The lawsuit alleges that NSO Group’s actions in developing the spyware and using it against the El Faro journalists violated the California Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the California Comprehensive Computer Fraud and Data Access Act, among other laws.
In addition to asking the court to rule that Pegasus’ attacks against El Farro and its reporters violated US law, the lawsuit asks that the NSO Group be ordered to identify, return, and destroy all information obtained through those attacks. then need to be removed.
They also demand that NSO Group be prohibited from using Pegasus again against the plaintiffs and identify the customer who ordered the surveillance.
Jamil Jaffer, executive director of the Knight Institute, said NSO Group and other spyware developers are giving authoritarian governments the tools to crack down on dissent and stifle freedom. Press
“Courts must ensure that spyware developers and their clients do not enjoy impunity for carrying out illegal practices, which have significant implications for democracy and human rights around the world,” Jafar said.
In November 2021, El Faro reported that the US company Apple had sent an email to “a small number of users” of iPhone phones in which it warned of “possible espionage” and “state-sponsored attackers” as suspects. was named.
The newspaper reported that the emails reached El Faro personnel from various fields, including editorial offices, reporters and members of the board of directors. Furthermore, El Faro was able to confirm that alert notifications were also sent to civil society organizations and leaders of opposition political parties.
Pegasus’ access to the El Faro journalists’ mobile phones was not traceable at first, but analysis by the Citizens Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy revealed devices used by El Faro staff between June 2020 and June 2020. identified 226 Pegasus transitions. and November 2021.