BRUSSELS, Oct 14 Reuters : The European Parliament awarded the top journalism prize to reporters who revealed that spyware developed by an Israeli company had been used against dissidents, human rights activists and politicians including the French President Emmanuel Macron.
The parliament awarded the inaugural prize of 20,000 euros $23,222 to the group of 17 media organisations, led by Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, which received technical support from Amnesty International.
The 'Pegasus Project' investigation concluded that people across 50 countries had been targeted for potential survelliance in what Amnesty and the media organisations said highlighted attempts to silence activists and a free press.
An unprecedented leak of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers selected by the customers of Israeli company NSO Group for surveillance shows how this technology has been systematically abused for years, the EU parliament said in a statement.
The NSO has rejected the reporting, saying in July a statement that it was full of false assumptions and uncorroborated theories It has said its Pegasus software is intended for use only by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
The findings of the Pegasus Project prompted Israel to set up a senior inter-ministerial team to investigate the allegations that this spyware had been abused on a global scale. Amnesty called for better protection of media.
It is vital that EU countries address these abuses, protect journalists and rights defenders and ensure robust and meaningful regulation over the cybersurveillance industry both at home and abroad, said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International's European Institution Office.
The EU-Categoria Prize, also known as the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, is named after a maltese investigative reporter who was killed four years ago by a car bomb.
The winner of the prize was selected by an independent jury composed of representatives from the media and civil society from the 27 EU states and representatives from the European Associations of Journalism.