Julia Gavarrete was one of dozens of journalists in El Salvador targeted with Pegasus spyware. (Photo: Víctor Peña)

Dozens of El Salvador journalists targeted with Pegasus spyware

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In one of the most widespread known uses of Pegasus spyware to surveil journalists in the world, a forensic analysis of dozens of phones in El Salvador found that devices belonging to 35 people, mostly members of the press, were infected with between July 2020 and November 2021.

“Suspecting you’ve been targeted isn’t the same as knowing,” Julia Gavarrete, one of those journalists, told CPJ. “It hit me not only on a professional level, but also emotionally.”

CPJ has repeatedly condemned the use of Pegasus spyware to target journalists, and joined partner organizations last week in calling on Salvadoran authorities to respond to the recent revelations.

Journalists can find safety information on Pegasus on our website.

Global press freedom updates

  • Myanmar journalist killed in military massacre, another killed in artillery strike
  • Video: Two journalists killed in Haiti while reporting from a gang-controlled area of the capital
  • Afghan journalist Zaki Qais beaten at home in Kabul
  • Belarusian journalist Aliaksandr Ivulin sentenced to two years in prison for protest coverage
  • Exiled Bangladeshi journalist Kanak Sarwar said his sister was detained in retaliation for his reporting
  • Sudanese military arrests, assaults journalists covering protests
  • Albanian riot police attack journalists covering demonstration
  • Peruvian court convicts author, publication director on defamation charges for book on politician
  • Bangladeshi camera operator Hossain Baksh abducted, severely beaten while covering local elections
  • Authorities suspend Kashmir Press Club’s registration, take over premises
  • CPJ examines why the U.N. push for a cybercrime treaty could imperil journalists simply for using the internet


Federal officers stand guard in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 6, 2021, during a ceremony held to support the military. (AFP/Amanuel Sileshi)

When CPJ released our annual prison census last month, one grim takeaway was the rise in journalists behind bars in Ethiopia. At least nine were imprisoned in the country as of December 1, 2021, and CPJ has documented several other arrests since then. The uptick was a result of the escalating civil war, which has prompted new media restrictions and a wave of censorship.

In more positive news, at least five Ethiopian journalists have been released this month, including Ermias Tesfaye of Ethiopia Insight, Melese Diribsa of the Oromia Media Network, Tesfa-Alem Tekle of Nation Media Group, Meaza Mohammed of Roha TV, and Eyasped Tesfaye of Ubuntu TV.

While CPJ is heartened by the news of each release, we remain deeply concerned about those still behind bars. CPJ continues to urge authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists detained for their work, and allow them to report free from intimidation, as the need for diverse and timely information in Ethiopia is more crucial than ever.

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