The European Parliament will be setting up a special inquiry committee on the misuse of Pegasus, the spyware which the Hungarian government allegedly employed against journalists, opposition politicians, lawyers, and other political opponents, Hvg.hu reports. Additionally, a recently revealed list alleges that police in Israel have also used the spyware for surveillance on multiple targets without judicial warrants.
Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands, Jeroen Lenaers, announced Wednesday afternoon that the European Parliament will initiate a special inquiry into the Pegasus case. More specifically, he said that such a committee will look at the spyware’s alleged misuse by European Union member states.
[The European Parliament] today decided to set up a special inquiry committee on the abuse of #Pegasus spyware by EU governments against national opposition politicians, lawyers and journalists.”
Further Criticism of Fidesz’s Pegasus Misuse
The Hungarian government’s suspected misuse of Pegasus has been a subject of criticism since the Pegasus Project’s data leak last July. Hungary Today reported on the MEPS of the Special Committee for Foreign Interference (INGE) condemning the government for conducting illegal surveillance with the spyware.
INGE concluded that the EU should urgently improve its cybersecurity and classify the use of Pegasus as illegal, the software should be banned. It also found that the EU does not have the sanctions and measures necessary to deter foreign interference away from the Union.
Szabolcs Panyi, the Direkt36 investigative journalist impacted by the surveillance scandal, discussed the international investigative project to the EP Committee meeting on the matter at the end of January. Panyi said that so far, 10 European countries are impacted, and that surveillance has been conducted on more than 200 journalists.
Investigation Supported by Opposition MEP
Representing the centrist Momentum Party in the European Parliament, Anna Donáth announced the initiation of the special inquiry committee on Facebook. Donáth called for the creation of such a body with her colleagues Róża Thun and Sophia in’t Veld. The Momentum MEP wrote that this is a question of democracy.
They also want Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to appear at a hearing.
It’s time for Europe to finally realize this, we need to ensure protection for the victims of the case. We need to extend protection to those investigative journalists, students, lawyers, and opposition politicians who were spied on without any kind of reasonable cause.”
So far, Hungary’s investigative bodies have not found evidence for any illegal use of NSO Group’s spyware, despite mounting claims that say otherwise. In its report, the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) said all the cases investigated meet the legal criteria for surveillance.
FactPegasus was developed specifically to give nations the ability to find the perpetrators of organized crime, pedophilia, human trafficking, and terrorism. NSO Group has emphasized that it only sold its product to national governments and government agencies.
Panyi found it absurd that NAIH reported those who contributed to revealing the misuse of Pegasus. According to him, after such reports, the confidential sources of investigative journalists uncovering lawlessness will avoid sharing information out of fear of retaliation.
Israel Police Among Most Recently Accused
Not only Hungary and Poland, but multiple countries around the world have been accused of misusing Pegasus. Most recently Israel was added to that list, with technological news outlet Calcalistech revealing a list of Israeli citizens targeted by police with the spyware before the appropriate investigations were launched.
The list includes former ministers, protest leaders for disability rights groups and Israelis of Ethiopian descent, mayors, journalists, businessmen, and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Avner Netanyahu. Israel Police has responded saying that it is “cooperating with the Attorney General of Israel’s examination team.”
In the featured photo illustration: PM Viktor Orbán in the European Parliament. Photo via Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office