Journalists and activists are sounding the alarm after various news reports claimed the Mexican government turned a crime-fighting tool against them. The reports note that hacking software is being used to spy on journalists’ phones–a claim that the government denies.
The outrage began this week after famed Mexican journalists Carmen Aristegui and Carlos Loret De Mola took to social media and to their respective outlets to accuse the Mexican government of trying to hack their phones. The claims come after the New York Times published a report stating that Mexican officials had been using Israeli software called Pegasus to keep tabs on the famed journalists and other activists. Pegasus is sold only to governments to fight crime and terrorist groups. Since 2011, various Mexican agencies purchased a variety of spy software, apparently to fight organized crime.
The software is designed by NSO Group to keep tabs on a person’s calls, texts, emails, and every other aspect of a cell phone. The system even gives access to the device’s microphone and camera, the New York Times reported. The software reportedly works by having the target receive a text asking them to click on a link. When the link is clicked, the software secretly takes over the phone.
Carmen Aristegui, one of Mexico’s most famous journalists has long been a critic of current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his political party the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Through her work, Aristegui reported a pay-for-play scandal where government contractors gave a Peña Nieto’s wife a mansion in exchange for lucrative contracts. Breitbart Texas reported on the subsequent scandal where Aristegui and her investigative team were fired from their jobs almost as soon as the story aired. In a similar fashion, Aristegui carried out an in-depth investigation into how members of the Juarez Cartel were able to funnel drug funds into Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential bid.
Aristegui claims that both she and her teenage son received multiple of texts in an apparent effort to bug their phone.
Carlos Loret De Mola, another high-profile Mexican journalist, also claims to have received multiple texts allegedly from the government. While somewhat critical of Mexico City, Loret De Mola and the TV channel he works for, Televisa, are largely seen as providing favorable coverage to Peña Nieto and the PRI.
Soon after the story by the NYT was published, Daniel Millan Valencia, the head of International Media for Mexico’s President’s Office, issued a statement rebuffing the report. According to Valencia, the Times report revealed no proof of such spying and that the Mexican government condemned any improper spying. The government official called on the journalists and others affected to file a police report with Mexico’s Attorney General.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Brandon Darby is managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.