At least 180 journalists across the world have been spied on using Pegasus software, a tool developed by the Israeli cyber-surveillance company NSO and sold to several clients, including states across the world.
The spyware grants NSO's clients full control over the infected phones' camera, microphone, emails, applications, text messages, call logs and allows them to get unlimited amounts of the targets' data.
The new report reveals that iPhones belonging to four Jordanian human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists were hacked with the Pegasus spyware between August 2019 and December 2021.
Among the targets was Suhair Jaradat, a human rights defender and freelance journalist, winner of the Al-Hussain Prize for Creativity in Journalism in 2006 and in 2018. Jaradat is a member of the Jordan Press Association, an IFJ affiliate, and was elected to the IFJ Executive Committee from 2010 to 2013 as a reserve member. She is an advocate for women's issues in media and a media trainer.
She covers politics in Jordan and has published critical stories about the government's activities. She fears the hackers wanted to identify her sources. "My phone battery emptied quicker, sometimes I had sound issues, or some calls were cancelled" she told the IFJ after finding out about the spying. " I am so angry about these privacy breaches, "she added.
The report has revealed that Jaradat’s phone was hacked six times between February and December 2021.
"In this report, we find once again that a government client of NSO Group has used Pegasus to spy on civil society targets that are neither terrorists nor criminals. This case adds to the large number of other cases of abuse of Pegasus worldwide, which amount to an indisputable indictment against NSO Group, and its ownership, for their inability or unwillingness to put in place even the most basic human rights-respecting safeguards," the report says, pointing at a "disturbing rise in gender-based digital repression practices".
The Jordanian National Cybersecurity centre denied the espionage accusations and said in an official statement that "Jordan didn't cooperate with any agent to spy on citizens' phones or monitor their calls."
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "We strictly condemn any attempt to interfere with journalists’ private communications, undermining democracy and the public's right to know. We urge the Jordanian government to launch a full investigation into this case and urge governments across the world to adopt strict regulations that ban surveillance of journalists and recognise the inviolability of journalists' communications".