July 25, 2021

In Hungary, power targets journalists and press bosses

By Jean-Baptiste Chastand

Posted today at 6:00 p.m.

The revelations of the “Pegasus Project” will not reassure those who are worried about the excesses of the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, in the area of ​​the rule of law. The world and its sixteen media partners can in fact affirm, thanks to the data made available by the organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and the testimony of a former employee of the NSO Group, that Hungary had recourse to the particularly intrusive services of the Israeli company to put under surveillance journalists, media owners and lawyers, all known to be critics of Mr Orban’s power.

Among the more than three hundred telephone numbers selected as potential targets by Hungary, The world and its partners were able to identify at least five journalists. These include Andras Szabo and Szabolcs Panyi, recognized journalists from the investigation site Direkt36. In recent years, this small site has multiplied disturbing revelations on the enrichment of those close to Viktor Orban or on the relations he maintains with Russia and China. “I always knew that I could be monitored, but this is monitoring with the best software in the world”, denounces Mr. Panyi, 35, who discovered that between April and December 2019 his phone was infected nearly twenty times.

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At that time, Mr. Panyi was investigating in particular the transfer of the headquarters of the International Investment Bank from Moscow to Budapest. The infection of his device, several times concomitant with the sending of questions to the government, and that of his college Andras Szabo was confirmed by the technical analyzes of their devices by the experts of the Security Lab of Amnesty International.

Two other Hungarian reporters, working on topics relating to crime and terrorism, as well as the ex-wife of one of them, have also been identified as potential targets. Finally, among the other numbers identified is that of a photographer who worked as a fixer for a foreign journalist investigating the same Russian bank.

Two of the journalists from the Hungarian investigation site Direkt36, Szabolcs Panyi and Andras Szabo.

Pegasus is known as a particularly intrusive software because it can suck, in all discretion, e-mails, list of contacts, geographical location, SMS, phone calls, documents, photographs… NSO assures that its use should be reserved for the fight against terrorism and organized crime. But if the list of numbers contains those of notorious relatives of the Hungarian criminal community, the presence of other personalities raises questions. Thus appear the numbers of the son and lawyer of Lajos Simicska, a wealthy businessman formerly very close to Mr. Orban, suddenly become one of his enemies, who sold all his media in 2018.

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