EU: ‘Hungary Targets Opponents Through Israeli Spyware’ (Worthy News Radio)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary

BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Leaders of the European Union’s parliament committee investigating espionage have accused Hungary’s government of “grossly abusing” Israeli spyware to intimidate hundreds of perceived domestic opponents.

Dutch legislators of the European Parliament’s ‘Committee of Inquiry to Investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware’, known as PEGA, came recently to Budapest on a mission: They wanted to learn more about the reported use of spyware to monitor and intimidate critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s nationalist government.

Leaked documents suggest that the government targeted more than 300 Hungarians, such as journalists, lawyers, opposition members, demonstrators, even a mayor, and other critics in recent years.

Speaking in Budapest, European legislator Jeroen Lenaers of PEGA appeared shocked about the surveillance of citizens in Hungary. “For me, what has been my main gist of the two days we had is that everything indicated that spyware has been grossly abused in Hungary and that I find the authorities’ explanation very unconvincing,” he concluded.

“Strong evidence indicates that people have been spied on with the objective of gaining even more political control over the public sphere. And I am convinced that the rule and basic democratic standards have been seriously breached here. And the situation in Hungary is among the worst in the European Union,” Lenaers complained.

Legislator Sophia in ‘t Veld, the PEGA rapporteur, says that Pegasus spyware enables the attacker to view all content on a smartphone, including messages from applications with end-to-end encryption, photographs, and location data.

She fears it can violate the privacy of victims by turning the device into an audio or video recorder. “Spyware is extremely evasive. It essentially takes over your mobile phone. That means every aspect of your private life. So it is not only a wiretapping device,” the legislator noted, adding that she had become more careful using the smartphone. “It gives access to all your files, your pictures, all your apps you are using, and your entire history or location. Everything, everything, everything.”


Top Hungarian officials have reluctantly confirmed that the government used Pegasus, purchased from the Israeli NSO Group. Among a handful of EU nations identified as having used this or similar spyware, Hungary has received the most damning assessments.

PEGA said, “it’s been an integral part of a system designed to control and even oppress citizens.”

Other EU countries mentioned include Poland, Cyprus, Greece, and Spain following an international investigation by journalists.

But Máté Kocsis, who leads Hungary’s ruling Fidesz Party’s parliamentary group, disagrees with the two European legislators that what Hungary did was illegal. “The facts are there was a broad investigation already. It came out that nobody did something illegal, according to Hungarian laws. It was already investigated from many angles and for a long time,” he told reporters.

Yet Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga, in charge of EU affairs, has refused to share these findings or even meet with PEGA Committee members calling them a politically motivated grouping.

In a statement, Varga said that security is “Hungary’s national domain” and that she doesn’t want to assist the efforts of what she called “the Hungarian and European left-wing funded by [U.S. billionaire George] Soros’ dollars.”

That’s hardly reassuring to victims like Hungarian investigative journalist Szabolcs Pany. He was among those targeted by the invasive Pegasus spyware while covering issues such as high-level corruption in Hungary and the growing influence of China and Russia.


“Of course, to some extent, it is a batch of honor to be included in this exclusive club,” the journalist ironically stressed. “But you know, then I read about Pegasus and the NGO group and that this company is marketing its tool, saying that this can only be used against the worst criminals on earth, terrorists, suspects of organized crime, or drug lords,” he observed.

“I don’t really fit into any of these brackets. So I also felt humiliated that my own government considers me such a threat to national security that they deploy like the most brutal cyber espionage tool against me,” Pany added.

Journalist Pany and several other victims have taken legal action against the government and Israelis allegedly involved in the Pegasus Scandal.

The PEGA committee was due to prepare its final report in April. But its findings already come at a sensitive time for Prime Minister Orbán. Hungary currently has the bloc’s highest level of inflation – over 25 percent.

Orbán wants the EU to release more than 20 billion euros ($21.4 billion) in frozen funding.

But Brussels has so far declined to do so, citing concerns over Hungary’s rule of law and democratic credentials.

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