New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The editor of the Financial Times is one of more than 180 editors, investigative reporters, and other journalists around the world who were selected as possible candidates for surveillance by government clients of the surveillance firm NSO Group, the Guardian reported.
Roula Khalaf, who became the first female editor in the newspaper’s history last year, was selected as a potential target throughout 2018.
The Guardian said her number is included in a leaked list of mobile phone numbers selected for possible surveillance by clients of NSO, an Israeli firm that manufactures spyware and sells it to governments. Its principal product, Pegasus, is capable of compromising a phone, extracting all of the data stored on the device and activating its microphone to eavesdrop on conversations.
Other journalists who were selected as possible candidates for surveillance by NSO’s clients work for some of the world’s most prestigious media organisations. They include the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America, The Guardian said.
Analysis of the leaked data suggests that Khalaf’s phone was selected as a possible target by the UAE. At the time, Khalaf was a deputy editor at the FT.
A spokesperson for the Financial Times said: “Press freedoms are vital, and any unlawful state interference or surveillance of journalists is unacceptable.”
The Guardian said reporters whose numbers appear in the data range from local freelancers, such as the Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto, who was murdered by attackers armed with guns one month after his phone was selected, through to prize-winning investigative reporters, editors and executives at leading media organisations.
In addition to the UAE, detailed analysis of the data indicates that the governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia all selected journalists as possible surveillance targets, the report said.
Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning Azerbaijani investigative journalist, was also confirmed by technical analysis to have been hacked with Pegasus in 2019.