PRAGUE: The European Union on Monday condemned any spying on journalists, after reports that Israeli software had been used to hack the smartphones of journalists, government officials and rights activists worldwide.
“What we could read so far – and this has to be verified, but if it is the case – it is completely unacceptable. Against any kind of rules we have in the European Union,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Prague.
“Freedom of media, free press is one of the core values of the EU. It is completely unacceptable if this (hacking) were to be the case.”
An investigation published on Sunday by 17 media organizations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said spyware made and licensed by the Israeli company NSO had been used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists.
NSO said its product was intended only for use by vetted government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
The investigation, which Reuters did not independently confirm, did not reveal who had attempted the hacks or why.
The Hungarian investigative website Direkt36, part of the consortium, said the more than 300 targets in Hungary included journalists, businesspeople, lawyers and critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary was unaware of the reported surveillance attempts but that he had asked the head of the Hungarian Information Office, a secret service under his supervision, to investigate.
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