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International journalists call for investigation into spy claims

drousiotis

Six international media freedom organisations and journalists’ associations said they were “highly concerned about the alleged surveillance of journalist Makarios Drousiotis, and the fact that there has not been a prompt, adequate or thorough investigation of the matter.”

In a letter, dated September 19 and addressed to Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides, Justice Minister Anna Procopoiou and the Chief of Police Stelios Papatheodorou, the six groups urged them “to act at last and ensure a proper investigation and prosecution of those responsible for any wrongdoing.”

The groups signing the letter were ARTICLE 19 Europe, Association of European Journalists, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, European Federation of Journalists, OBC Transeuropa and Reporters Without Borders.

Drousiotis, who has published a series of books in which he has documented corruption in the Cyprus government, alleged that he was spied on by the state, starting in 2018, using both eavesdropping techniques and spyware, as documented in the Report of the European Parliament on the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance software.

At the time, Drousiotis was assistant to the Cypriot EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides.

The letter said: “Amidst revelations in the media about NSO Group operating from Cyprus and suspicions voiced by CitizenLab that the country used NSO technologies, Drousiotis noticed several indications of possible infiltration of his phone with Pegasus spyware. These included a suspicious missed WhatsApp call, rapid battery depletion, and frequent overheating of his device while he was not using it. In the following months, Drousiotis faced several intimidation attempts, including the disconnection of security cameras at his home and being followed by unknown persons.”

The letter added: “It is wholly unacceptable that despite complaints to the authorities and repeated follow-ups by Drousiotis and his representatives, there has been no progress in the investigation and prosecution of these grave allegations. Intimidation, harassment and surreptitious surveillance of investigative reporters undermine their watchdog role and the protection of their journalistic sources, which are essential in a functioning democracy.”

The six groups called on the Cyprus officials to step up and finally take the appropriate investigative measures and prosecutorial action, adding that they “stand in solidarity with Drousiotis and will continue to follow the case closely.”

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