(Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
On 6 April, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Jordanian authorities to investigate the alleged use of the Israeli NSO Group spying software, Pegasus, against two Jordanian reporters whose phones were infected on at least eight occasions over the past year.
”Jordanian authorities must promptly and transparently investigate the alleged surveillance of journalist Suhair Jaradat and a second unidentified journalist and human rights activist, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” CPJ Middle East coordinator Sherif Mansour said.
Mansour defended the right of reporters to work without their sources and private lives under exposure to hackers, according to a statement from the CPJ.
Jaradat, a freelance columnist specializing in Jordanian politics, confirmed to the CPJ that her phone was affected by the software on at least six occasions between February and December 2021. Jaradat said she did not believe there was any other motive for the attack beyond her journalistic reports.
A report released yesterday by the groups Front Line Defenders and Citizen Lab alleges that the phone of the second Jordanian journalist and human rights activist was infected with Pegasus spyware at least two separate times last year.
The software, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group and capable of accessing even the microphone of an infected device, has been used to monitor journalists in other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The NSO Group, Israel’s cybersecurity firm which gave rise to the infamous Pegasus virus, is also facing threats from US blacklists following various controversies over spyware blackmailing of journalists, politicians, and other public figures.
On 15 December 2021, 18 US members of the Senate and House of Representatives called upon the US Treasury Department and State department to place official sanctions on the NSO Group.
The US blacklisting of the NSO comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is under increased scrutiny for its role in the Khashoggi killing. The kidnapping of Jamal Khashoggi, and his subsequent murder, took place with the help of NSO Pegasus spyware.