The European Parliament on Thursday awarded the EU’s top journalism prize to French nonprofit Forbidden Stories for the group’s work on investigating the use of Israel’s Pegasus malware.
Forbidden Stories, along with 17 media organizations, revealed in July that the malware had been used by governments around the world to spy on prominent human rights activists, dissidents and top political figures.
What did the EU say?
“An unprecedented leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers selected for surveillance by the customer of the Israeli company NSO group shows how this technology has been systematically abused for years,” the EU said in a statement regarding the award.
The organizations will be given a monetary award of €20,000 ($23,000). The EU prize is named after Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese reporter and anti-corruption activist who was killed by a car bomb in 2017.
It is given out every year “to reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values.” An independent panel picks the winner.
“By creating transparency, investigative journalism allows voters to make informed decisions. Protecting and supporting journalists is in the vital interest of democratic societies,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said at the beginning of the award ceremony in Brussels.
Who is Forbidden Stories?
Forbidden Stories was founded in 2017 as a collaborative platform including moore than 30 media outfits from around the world. The project began as a joint initiative set up by French documentary filmmaker Laurent Richard with support from Reporters Without Borders.
The group’s first journalistic investigation, the Daphne Project, looked at Caruana Galizia’s trove of documents surrounding Malta’s “golden passports” scheme. About 45 journalists from 18 media organizations spent over six months going through the evidence.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ultimately stepped down following the outcry over the government’s handling of Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Mexican drug cartels and environmentally harmful mining companies in India, Tanzania and Guatemala have also been the subjects of investigations by Forbidden Stories.
What is Pegasus malware?
The military-grade malware, developed by the Israeli-based NSO group, can be used to spy on people through their smartphones.
The subject of the attack unwittingly downloads the spyware by clicking on a link. Once the malware is installed, the hacker has complete access to the target’s phone. This includes private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls.
The investigation led by Forbidden Stories found that people in 50 different countries had been targeted by the malware. This included journalists, human rights activists and politicians — even French President Emmanuel Macron.
NSO has rejected the reporting saying that its software had been designed purely for governmental actors to use in the fight against terrorism and crime.
ab,wd/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)