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Israel tech ‘facilitating press freedom abuses around the world’

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel has been charged with enabling attacks on media freedom around the world by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), after export controls on surveillance technology were eased.

Citing a Reuters report, CPJ noted that Israeli officials have confirmed that – thanks to a rule change by the Defence Ministry – Israeli surveillance companies “are able to obtain exemptions on marketing license for the sale of some products to certain countries”.

According to Reuters, “the change took effect about a year ago”.

CPJ stated that

Israeli-exported technology undermines press freedom globally by allowing authorities to track reporters and potentially identify their sources.

One example given by the press freedom watchdog was the Mexican government deploying Pegasus malware, sold by Israeli firm NSO Group, to infiltrate the mobile phones “of at least nine journalists”.

Pegasus was also used by Saudi Arabia to spy on the associates of journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he was murdered in the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey in October last year.

“Over and over again, we see Israeli technology facilitating press freedom abuses around the world, by lending a hand to governments that want to track and monitor reporters,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch in Washington, D.C.

“An unregulated surveillance industry is bad for press freedom. The Israeli government should heed the UN Special Rapporteur’s call to respect human rights in its export policies.”

UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression David Kaye described Israel as “a major player in the surveillance technology market” in a June 2019 report which urged “a global moratorium on such exports until a human rights compliant regime was put in place”.

READ: Israel Defence Ministry hired controversial spy firm Black Cube 

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