Following a report that at least three people looking into human rights violations had Pegasus spyware on their phones, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador denied his administration had spied on journalists or political rivals on Tuesday.
According to a Citizen Lab research published on Sunday, Pegasus malware infected phones belonging to two journalists and a human rights activist between 2019 and 2021.
Following an electoral campaign in which he vowed to stop the government from eavesdropping on its citizens and later declared he would not utilise Pegasus, Lopez Obrador was elected president in 2018.
NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, only ever sells Pegasus to governments or law enforcement agencies.
It’s not true that journalists or opponents are being spied on, Lopez Obrador said in response to a question about whether he was aware of the purchase of Pegasus, a device that may be used to remotely hack phones.
He claimed at a news conference that the military conducted intelligence work, which was “not spying,” and that his enemies were using the Pegasus accusations to cast doubt on his administration.
He told reporters, “My doctrine isn’t hypocrisy, like the prior governments you all celebrate.
Under former President Enrique Pena Nieto, Citizen Lab had previously discovered Mexico’s usage of Pegasus, raising concerns about the potential for government critics, journalists, and activists to be monitored.
On Monday, the most recent three alleged Pegasus victims complained to federal authorities and demanded an investigation. Lopez Obrador demanded that authorities be given access to the material.
The infections were confirmed by Citizen Lab, a renowned cybersecurity research organisation at the University of Toronto, and were made public in a report by the Mexican organisation R3D that promotes digital rights. Reuters was unable to independently verify the results.
Israel’s NSO Group claimed that without access to data that it claimed the research team does not disclose, it could not validate Citizen Lab’s conclusions.
It stated that when misbehaviour is discovered, contracts are terminated. The defence ministry and attorney general’s office of Mexico claimed they were unaware of the situation.