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Government accused of using spyware

July 20th, 2021

As the government stands accused of using spyware to monitor critical journalists and other individuals, a left-wing pundit likens PM Orbán to the dictators of the East. Pro-government commentators are skeptical that the government illegally tapped its critics.

According to a report published in the investigative online outlet Direkt36, 300 Hungarian mobile phones have been hacked and monitored using the Israeli NSO’s Pegasus spyware. According to the collaborative global investigative report, written collectively by 17 other dailies including the Washington Post, Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Monde, opposition politicians as well as left-wing and independent journalists and NGO activists have been targeted by the spyware. Noting that the NSO sells its services only to government actors, Direkt36 alleges that the Hungarian government uses Pegasus to monitor its critics. The government responded by denying that it was involved in the alleged spyware monitoring, adding that it always acts in-line with the relevant regulations and observes the rule of law.

In Városi Kurír, György Gábor is not at all surprised that the government is suspected of illegally spying on its critics. The left-wing pundit recalls that earlier in July, Prime Minister Orbán was named by the organization Reporters Without Borders as a threat to media freedom (see BudaPost July 10). Using the Pegasus spyware to tap its citizens is further proof that Prime Minister Orbán’s government is a full-fledged dictatorship, Gábor concludes.

In a short Facebook comment, Dániel Deák dismisses the allegations a outright, and thinks that the collaborative report on the Pegasus software is the coordinated effort of the ‘Soros network’. The pro-government commentator maintains that left-leaning global media outlets as well as opposition politicians work in close cooperation to achieve their aims.

On Mandiner, Zoltán Veczán downplays the importance of the spyware scandal. The pro-government journalist believes that in the era of modern technology, everyone is being constantly monitored by mobile applications and internet giants. Veczán adds that every government spies on its citizens, suspecting that even he as a minor opposition journalist was tapped by the socialist-liberal governments before 2010. He also acknowledges, however, that spying on individuals is a nasty practice, and the Pagasus scandal, regardless if it is substantiated or not, could offer a useful opportunity to start a public debate about privacy in modern democratic societies.

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