NEW YORK – October 1, 2021 – Investigative journalist Omar Radi, who was targeted by surveillance spyware and sentenced by Moroccan authorities to six years in prison in July 2021, topped October’s list of the “10 most Most Urgent” from the One Free Press Coalition. The “10 Most Urgent” list, released today by a united group of prominent writers and editors, shines a light on journalists whose press freedom is being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.
In light of growing reports that reveal the extent to which spyware is used to surveil journalists by governments that weaponize the technology, October’s list highlights journalists who have been victims of surveillance or who were targeted by spyware. These cases – and many more like them – threaten press freedom everywhere. Also noteworthy on this month’s list Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by Saudi agents almost two years ago on October 2 following a spyware attack.
While the surveillance of journalists is not a new phenomenon, efforts by bad actors to silence the press and rapid advances in technology have exacerbated the problem. Governments around the world have used sophisticated crime-fighting spyware to target the press. Journalists say spyware has the potential to expose and endanger themselves or their sources and reveal other private information that could be used to censor or hinder their work. Journalists can find CPJ resources on digital security here and more reporting on spyware and press freedom here.
Published this morning on www.onefreepresscoalition.com and by all Coalition members, 32n/a The “10 Most Urgent Journalists” list includes the following journalists, listed in order of urgency:
1. Omar Radi (Morocco)
Since 2018, Moroccan authorities have filed sex crimes charges against several independent journalists in the country in an attempt to target them for their reporting. Investigative journalist Omar Radi is one of 180 journalists identified by the nonprofit Forbidden Stories as being targeted by surveillance spyware. Last July, he was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual assault and undermining state security through espionage and illegal receipt of foreign funds.
2. Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan)
A leading investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova is known for her exposure of high-level government corruption and alleged links between President Ilham Aliyev’s family and businesses. She was sentenced to prison in 2014 and served 538 days before her release. In a forensic analysis of his phone, Amnesty International detected multiple traces of activity linked to the Pegasus spyware, dating from 2019 to 2021.
3. Sevinj Vagifgizi (Azerbaijan)
Sevinj Vagifgizi, a correspondent for independent Berlin-based and Azerbaijan-focused media Meydan TV, was the target of Pegasus spyware from 2019 to 2021. She had previously been targeted by Azerbaijani authorities and banned from leaving the country in 2015 to 2019. In 2019, she faced defamation charges after reporting that people were voting with government-issued pre-filled ballots.
4. Szabolcs Panyi (Hungary)
Reports reveal that in 2019, President Viktor Orbán’s administration’s Pegasus spyware targeted Szabolcs Panyi – among five other Hungarian journalists – as conditions for independent journalism grew increasingly difficult in the country. Panyi is a journalist at Direkt36.hu, known for her reporting on issues such as government corruption.
5. Ricardo Calderón (Colombia)
Throughout 2019 and 2020, Ricardo Calderón, then director of the news magazine’s investigative team Semana, has been the target of threats, harassment and surveillance related to reporting on the Colombian military, including efforts to monitor journalists. This year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that Calderón faced “grave and imminent” danger from threats and surveillance by the Colombian military and other sources.
6. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta (India)
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a journalist and author, is facing lengthy criminal and civil defamation lawsuits and was recently threatened with arrest. Amnesty International detected forensic indications linked to Pegasus spyware in early 2018 on his phone, while writing about political parties using social media to campaign politically and investigate the foreign assets of a wealthy family Indian businessman.
7. jamal khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)
Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto team that studies media, security and human rights, found that the Pegasus spyware infected the phone of Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who was in close contact with Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi before his assassination by Saudi agents. The research revealed that the family and colleagues of journalists are often the target of surveillance. This October 2n/a it’s been two years since Jamal was killed.
8. Ismael Bojorquez and Andrés Villarreal (Mexico)
After Javier Valdez Cárdenas, founder of the Mexican outlet Rio Doce, was assassinated in 2017, Rio DoceThe director and his colleague received attempts to infect their phones with the Pegasus spyware, with some of the attempts claiming to have information about Valdez’s death.
9. Carmen Aristegui (Mexico)
Aristegui Noticias, the media headed by one of Mexico’s best-known reporters, has denounced numerous corruption scandals. Carmen Aristegui was heavily targeted, alongside her son (a minor) with NSO spyware links between 2015 and 2016, according to Citizen Lab.
ten. Ahmed Mansour (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Well-known political blogger Ahmed Mansoor has been targeted by hackers on several occasions, starting in 2011, when CPJ documented threats and lawsuits related to his blog, researchers report.
The One Free Press Coalition is made up of 32 prominent international members, including: Agency Efe; Al Jazeera Media Network, AmericaEconomy; The Associated Press; Bloomberg News; The Boston Globe; Corriere Della Sera; From Standard; Deutsche Welle; Stadium; EURACTIV; The Financial Times; Forbes; Fortune; HuffPost; India today; Insider Inc.; The weather ; Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Cuba Broadcasting Bureau; Quartz; Radio Free Asia; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Republic ; Reuters; The Times of the Straits; Suddeutsche Zeitung; TIME; Aztec TV; Voice of America; The Washington Post; and Yahoo News.
One Free Press Coalition partners with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to identify the most urgent cases for the list, which is updated and published on the first working day of each month.
The Coalition’s mission is to use the collective voices of its members – who reach more than a billion people around the world – to “defend journalists under attack for seeking the truth”. News agencies around the world can join the Coalition by emailing [email protected]
Members of the public are also encouraged to join the conversation using the #OneFreePress hashtag and follow developments on Twitter @OneFreePress.
A Free Press Coalition
The One Free Press Coalition highlights each month the “10 Most Urgent Journalists” whose press freedom is under threat around the world. The Coalition uses the collective voices of participating news organizations to shine a light on brave journalists whose voices are silenced or have been silenced in “defending journalists under attack for seeking the truth”. To see the “10 Most Urgent” list each month, and to see a full list of participating news outlets and supporting partners, please visit onefreepresscoalition.com or @OneFreePress on Twitter.
One Free Press Coalition PR: [email protected]
Committee to Protect Journalists: Bebe Santa-Wood, [email protected]