Orbán’s likely challenger demands action over claims journalists and politicians were potential targets.
Hungary’s opposition has called for ministerial resignations from Viktor Orbán’s far-right government over allegations it selected journalists, media owners and opposition political figures as potential targets for invasive Pegasus spyware.
The allegations, published last week by the Guardian and other members of the Pegasus project consortium, were backed up in a number of cases with forensic analysis of mobile devices carried out by Amnesty International, which showed phones had been infected with Pegasus, sold by the Israeli company NSO Group.
“At the very least, the minister of justice has to resign,” said Gergely Karácsony, the mayor of Budapest and the most likely challenger to Orbán for the prime minister’s post at elections next spring, in an interview at Budapest’s city hall on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, a protest against the government over the Pegasus affair drew about 1,000 people. “This scandal shows we cannot talk about the rule of law any more in Hungary,” Anna Donáth, a Hungarian MEP with the opposition party Momentum, told the Associated Press news agency at the rally. “Our demand is the resignation of the government.”
Hungarian law provides that in cases where national security is at stake, the intelligence services can order surveillance with no judicial oversight, only the signature of the minister of justice.
The justice minister, Judit Varga, has declined to comment on whether the Hungarian government uses Pegasus, but said “every country needs such tools”. She has not addressed what the national security justification could be for surveilling journalists, businesspeople or politicians.
In an interview earlier this month with Le Monde, a Pegasus project partner, Varga first said it was “a provocation” when asked if she would authorise the surveillance of a journalist. Later, her office asked for the question and the answer to be removed from the interview.
Last week, the Budapest prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into unauthorised secret information-gathering. Few expect this to produce real results, though, with the government accused by opposition figures of ignoring the allegations.
Article written by: Shaun Walker
Photo credit: Aleksander Kalka/ZUMA Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock