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Civil society organisations condemn Mexican government surveillance of human rights defenders

People of all ages surf the web at the Digital Village in Mexico City, 17 July 2015
People of all ages surf the web at the Digital Village in Mexico City, 17 July 2015

AP Photo/Sofia Jaramillo

On 11 July 2016, an investigation by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and the New York Times revealed evidence that Dr. Simon Barquera, researcher at Mexico's Public Health National Institute, Alejandro Calvillo, Director at El Poder del Consumidor and Luis Manuel Encarnación, Coordinator of ContraPESO Coalition received targeted attacks with the objective of infecting their mobile devices with surveillance malware exclusively sold to governments by the company NSO Group.

According to the evidence, the attacks are related to the target's activities in defense of public health, particularly advocating for a soda tax and criticizing deficient food labeling regulations.

In the light of these revelations, the signatory national and international civil society organizations:

1. Condemn the illegal surveillance revealed and show our solidarity and stand with the academic institutions and civil society organizations targeted with these attacks.
2. Express our concern about the Mexican government's use of highly intrusive software such as the "Pegasus" malware commercialized by the NSO Group, particularly against researchers and civil society organizations. This type of surveillance malware that exploits unknown security vulnerabilities (zero-day) in commercial software and products to obtain an absolute control of a device, severely compromises the right to privacy, especially when there is no legal controls or democratic oversight of state surveillance.
3. Demand the government of Mexico to stop the threats and surveillance against researchers and civil society organizations and call for an immediate investigation to identify and punish the officials responsible for illegal surveillance in Mexico.
4. Call on international organizations, governments around the world and the international community as a whole, to investigate the activities of the NSO Group and other companies that sell surveillance capabilities to Mexico, a country with a record of human rights abuses.
5. Express our special concern regarding this new instance of harassment against researchers and health activists that affect the interests of the food and beverage industries. We call on the industry to clarify its involvement or knowledge of the revealed surveillance and to publicly reject any act of intimidation against human rights defenders.


Association for Civil Rights
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
Derechos Digitales
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Espacio Público
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Fundación Karisma
Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión - IPLEX
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
National Press Association
Reporters Without Borders

Access Now
Asociación para el Progreso de las Comunicaciones (APC)
Australian Privacy Foundation
Centro de Estudios Constitucionales y en Derechos Humanos de Rosario Centro Horizontal
Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CMPDH)
Contingente MX
Datos Protegidos
Enjambre Digital
Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación
Hiperderecho, Perú
Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir (ILSB)
Katarzyna Szymielewicz
Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH)
Panoptykon Foundation
Patient Privacy Rights
Public Knowledge
Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D)
Renata Aquino Ribeiro, Researcher E.I. Collective
SonTusDatos Artículo 12, A.C.
Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital (Chiapas, MX) TEDIC, Paraguay
Usuarios Digitales, Ecuador
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)


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