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SPJ: Pegasus Project findings ‘staggering and outrageous’


Matthew T. Hall, SPJ National President, 619-987-7786,
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134,

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is concerned and disturbed by reports about a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers worldwide, including at least 180 used by journalists, that were possible targets of surveillance via technology that can extract data from and eavesdrop on cellphones.

“The worldwide hacking revelations in the Pegasus Project are staggering and outrageous,” said SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall. “They will take time to fully comprehend, but they will have an immediate chilling effect on journalists whose relationships with countless sources are built on trust and enhanced by technology.”

The Pegasus Project is a global investigation by The Washington Post, PBS Frontline, The Guardian, Le Monde and a dozen other international media partners into a leaked list of phone numbers. Initial stories were published Sunday, and more will follow this week. The Washington Post reported in its main story that the military-grade spyware was used in "attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

“The consortium of journalists and others that brought this massive, dangerous invasion of privacy to light should be commended,” Hall said. “Every journalist should be concerned, everyone with a phone should be paying attention and every government should be looking for information and solutions.”

The Post and other outlets are reporting that the phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the NSO Group, an Israel-based cyber company at the cutting-edge of an unregulated and quickly growing private spyware industry.

NSO Group has questioned "false accusations and misleading allegations" in the reporting, saying its technology was not used in Khashoggi’s murder and that the investigation is “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.” SPJ asks that the U.S. government and all world governments take this communication threat seriously, investigate it thoroughly and act to protect all citizens from intrusions on the phones that so many of us rely upon every day.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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