The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a notable user of the Israeli NSO Pegasus software, which is used to spy on its citizens and monitor their online activities. This controversial software has gained widespread notoriety for its association with human rights abuses and its promotion by authoritarian regimes around the world.
Pegasus is a highly sophisticated spyware that can infect a target’s phone through a simple text message. Once installed, it can access a person’s private messages, emails, phone calls, contacts, and other sensitive information. The software was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity firm, and is marketed as a tool for governments to use against terrorists and criminal organisations.
However, evidence has shown that the UAE is using Pegasus to target human rights activists, journalists, and political opponents. The software has been used to track and monitor their online activities, including their private conversations and communications. This has created a chilling effect on free speech and has had a negative impact on the country’s human rights record.
The UAE’s use of the Israeli spyware program Pegasus to surveil the phones of journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Financial Times, Rola Khalaf, has raised serious concerns about press freedom and privacy rights. The leaked phone numbers selected for monitoring reveal that the UAE targeted journalists from top media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the Financial Times.
Rola Khalaf of the Financial Times under targeted
This news comes amid growing concerns about the use of Pegasus by authoritarian regimes to silence dissent and restrict the freedom of the press. The spyware program, produced by the NSO Group, has the capability to extract photos, messages, emails, record calls, and activate the microphone on both iPhone and Android devices, giving governments access to a wealth of personal information.
The targeting of Rola Khalaf, who was appointed as the first female editor-in-chief of the Financial Times last year, is particularly concerning. As one of 180 journalists whose phones were exposed to hacking through the Israeli program, her privacy and freedom of expression have been violated.
It is crucial that the international community takes steps to address the misuse of Pegasus and other similar technologies. The sale and use of such software must be regulated to prevent it from being used for malicious purposes and to ensure that freedom of expression and privacy rights are protected.
UAE Subject to International criticism for using the Pegasus software
The use of Pegasus in the UAE has drawn international attention and criticism, and has raised concerns about the proliferation of such software among repressive regimes worldwide. Many countries, including Saudi Arabia and Mexico, have been reported to use the spyware for similar purposes. This trend is concerning as it can be used to silence opposition, restrict the freedom of the press, and undermine the rule of law.
Furthermore, the lack of accountability and transparency surrounding the use of Pegasus is also concerning. The NSO Group has been accused of not doing enough to ensure that its software is not used for human rights abuses. This has led to calls for greater regulation of the sale and use of such software, to prevent it from being used to undermine freedom and human rights.
In conclusion, the UAE’s promotion and use of the Israeli NSO Pegasus software is a concerning development that threatens free speech and human rights in the country. The proliferation of such software among authoritarian regimes around the world is also a cause for alarm. It is imperative that governments, international organisations, and civil society groups take action to regulate the sale and use of such software and ensure that it is not used for human rights abuses.