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Morocco sues French newspaper for defamation in Pegasus spyware case

October 19, 2021 at 3:44 pm

A French newspaper vendor holds up a copy of L’Humanite on October 3, 2002 in Paris, France [Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]

Morocco is suing L’Humanité for defamation after the French newspaper accused the authorities in the Kingdom of using the Israeli “Pegasus” spyware to monitor individuals and governments, including French President Emmanuel Macron and senior officials in Algeria. The newspaper announced its awareness of the legal action on its website yesterday.

L’Humanité described the legal move as “a blow to freedom of expression”, but its original report caused a lot of damage to the government in Rabat, not least because Algeria relied on it to justify its decision to sever relations with Morocco.

Rabat initiated legal proceedings in the Spanish courts in August after Spanish newspapers and magazines accused it of espionage using Pegasus. At that time, the Moroccan News Agency said that the Moroccan government would initiate legal proceedings “because of repeated publication and broadcast of false, malicious and misleading slanders against the Kingdom on Spanish soil.”

READ: Morocco’s ambassador insists that kingdom did not spy on Macron

Morocco has also taken legal action against German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, after filing similar lawsuits on 22 July against Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories. They stand accused of claiming that Rabat hacked the telephones of many national and international public figures using the Pegasus spyware. Le Monde, Mediapart, and France Radio are also being sued for defamation.

British newspaper the Guardian published on 14 July the results of an investigation conducted by 17 media organisations which revealed that Israel’s Pegasus spyware had spread widely around the world and was used for illegal purposes. In a statement at the time, the Moroccan government denied accusations that it had spied on public and foreign figures using the spyware.

Israel's Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel’s Pegasus spyware global weapon to silence critics? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]