In El Salvador, Pegasus eavesdrop on journalists."They pissed us off.We keep writing, "say

In the photo at the top, the president of Salvador Nayib Bukele, who won the election in 2019.And whose government used Pegasus independent journalists.

"In March 2020, the pandemic crisis begins.The government is trying to present its management as a great success, but the media reveal gross cases of corruption.The health minister buys footwear for medical staff from the company of his cousins, and masks from strange companies with suspicious connections.When building a Covid Hospital, the prices are overstated, absolute lack of transparency.Then they begin to eavesdrop on with Pegasus.And the campaign on El Faro begins, "they say the eye.Press journalists of this online magazine.

"Maybe there will be fewer topics for some time, the informants will be more afraid.But people will always want to tell, there will always be indignation.This is not hope, but certainty.Many people tell me: it's clear that I will talk to you.We keep working.

The whole conversation - then.

The Polish government may be the only one that openly admits to the use of Pegasus, but not the only one who uses it.Shortly after the cases of such surveillance, journalists of the independent El Faro, independent Salvador's Sylvadors' magazine [in Polish, lighthouse] discovered that they have been eavesdropping on Pegasus for years.

They told the eye.Press, how they discovered that they are spy and what to do to avoid eavesdropping.They also talk about the situation in El Salvador, which connects with Poland more than you could expect.Our interlocutors are:

*José Luis Sanz - journalist and one of the founders of the Negra Investigative Group, studying violence and crime organized in Central America.Former director of El Faro, and from 2021 a correspondent in Washington.

* Sergio Arauz - journalist and deputy editor -in -chief in El Faro, the first in Latin America of online magazine (he has been published since 1998).El Faro focuses on investigative journalism, political analyzes, deepened materials.An anti-authoritarian approach, closer to the left, depicts to various currents.

Marta K.Nowak: Did you expect it?

José Luis Sanz: Working as journalists, we have long counted on the fact that we could be overheard.Since Nayib Bukele became the president [in 2019.Oku, previously an entrepreneur and politician, a Muslim of Palestinian origin, year 1981 - Red.], we expected it more and more.

How did you know about wiretap?

José Luis Sanz: Two journalists - one of El Faro, the other from the Gato Eyerado magazine noticed that something strange was happening with their phones, they began to activate themselves at night.They gave two phones to the expertise - business and private.

It turned out that all four were broken with Pegasus.All editorial staff who had the iPhones gave them to the Canadian laboratory of The Citizen Lab, unfortunately it is still unknown how to detect Pegasus on Androids.

How is it to wait for the result of such a study?

Sergio Arauz: I waited for the result for the result of the Covid-19 test.It just happened that there was a problem with my phone and it was checked longer.In the meantime, more colleagues learned that they were spy.And I was in uncertainty.And finally I got the result.I have a virus.

I learned that I had 14 attacks, it is usually called "events".The Citizen Lab detected 14 of them in 28 days.But events are divided into two categories: successful burglary - that is, they had access to the phone and saw what is in it and successful download.Then it is known that they pulled something out of your phone.

I had a download, unfortunately it is impossible to check what.You are already with this ignorance.Then you will change the passwords, update the settings ...

I can't stop them from another burglary, they are unpunished.

What could they want?

Sergio Arauz: I am an editor responsible for working in the editorial office, I contact all journalists, I am also a member of the board.At the time I was hacked, I edited the investigations, I took part in everything that happened in the editorial office.This can explain their interest.

When it comes to attacks, each employee is a different case.The editor -in -chief of Oscar Martinez has a record of 40 attacks.In turn, journalist Carlos Martínez, on which the government campaign of slander was focused at some point, had few burglaries, but one of them lasted over 200 days.

All this time they had access to everything on his phone, they could hear what was going on, see the picture.They were constantly present in his life.There are also burglaries that we just don't understand.

José Luis Sanz: The head strategy manager, DS manager was, DS manager.administration.What is the logic?We have no idea what the government could want from them.

Do you think that the government is behind it?

José Luis Sanz: Yes, although of course he denied that he had ever used Pegasus.The head of the Chancellery of the President even said that perhaps the members of the government were eavesdropping on.

We have no doubt that it was them and to be honest, we would not be surprised if they eavesdrop on each other too.Of course, we do not have hard evidence for this, because it is impossible to track down the source of the attack, but this is the only possible answer.

Pegasus is expensive and only a government can be bought by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.We also managed to determine that the burglary was carried out from El Salvador.

How do you know that?

José Luis Sanz: During the study, it turned out that one of the phones was just hacked.Citizen Lab technicians could thanks to this that the attack is from El Salvador.If the software can only buy a row and the source of the attack is in El Salvador, the matter seems obvious.Especially if we consider the context of Nayiba Bukele's rule.Since he came to power, the relations between the government and the media have changed radically.

Bukele reaches power in June 2019 and immediately begins to attack journalists and the media.At the beginning, he only publicly questions what we write, then in government media there are slander campaigns.Over time, the message is becoming more and more aggressive, journalists are threatened with the use of force.We start getting anonymous.Some get the threat of death, rape.

At first, the government attacks various media, in June 2020 focuses on El Faro.First, they falsely accuse us of hiding the case of rape in the editorial office.Two days after it turns out that this lie and the matter quietly, we also have four inspections of the Treasury.

What did you get so?

José Luis Sanz: Pierwsze ataki, które udało się wykryć, miały miejsce na początku lipca 2020 roku.Exactly when the government concentrated its hunt on El Faro.There may be several explanations.

In March 2020, the pandemic crisis begins.The government is trying to present its management as a great success, but the media reveal gross cases of corruption.

We are talking about dozens of corruption in two months, and there are abuse of power.

For the Polish ear it all sounds surprisingly familiar.What kind of abuse are we talking about?

José Luis Sanz: I'll give you an example.A poor woman lived in a small room with her mother and a four -year -old child.To wash or use the toilet, they had to go outside to the bathroom stuck with a makeshift sheet with a blanket instead of the door.

These types of detention are illegal, because there is no judgment, so you can not appeal - finally the Supreme Court himself admitted and ordered to free the woman.The government and the police simply ignored it.The woman was closed for 30 days.

This is one case, but there were thousands of similar.In May and June, we published a lot of this type of texts.This is one explanation.

Tell more about the investigations of El Faro.

W Salwadorze Pegasusem podsłuchują dziennikarzy. „Wkurzyli nas. Piszemy dalej” – mówią

Sergio Arauz: One of them concerned the Pact from 2020, i.e. the secret negotiations of the government with the three largest Salvador gangs.In exchange for a decrease in the number of killings and support during the election period, the government promised to meet their demands, such as improving conditions in prison or benefits for gang members in the wild.

The pact is only a part of the great investigation that the prosecutor's office led against the bikele rule.The files had many columns and a lot of branches, so the investigation was given the code name "Cathedral".

The prosecutor's office gathered evidence for six months, government officials and persons close to the president were overheard.The prosecutor's files were of one of the greatest corruption scandals of the government exercising power.The structure created by Nayib Bukele and its relatives were defined as mafia.

So citizens can at least rely on independent state institutions.

Not any more.When Bukele won in February 2021 Congress elections [Presidential Party New Ideas with Allied Gana won 61 out of 84 places in a one -handed parliament - Red.] showed his real, authoritarian face.

José Luis Sanz: Bukele was not resisting to break the law, but now he doesn't have to do it anymore.He can sew them to his measure.Most in the congress allows him to establish the rights announced two hours earlier.It was like that with Bitcoin.

He announced, among other things, that "law regarding foreign agents" would be created.Would force all people and organizations that receive funds from abroad to register as "foreign agents".

Like in Russia Putin and Hungary Orbán.

40 percent should also be paid from all foreign provisions are announced, which in turn would force journalists to disclose informants.

What can you do about wiretaps in such a situation?

José Luis Sanz: We'll pull the topic to the end.We will try to make the case go to court because we believe that it belongs and the judicial system should act.At the same time, we have no shadow of hope that it will do something.

Nayiba's government is currently reviewing the Supreme Court, contrary to the law, it nominated one -third of judges in the country.[In August 2021, Bukele introduced a law that forced almost 700 judges and many prosecutors retirement."End with corrupt judges and justice tailored to the groups of power," he argued.The amended law guaranteed that new judges and prosecutors were indicated by persons subordinate to the government - Red.].

However, we hope that through wiretaps he will suffer at least image consequences.We want to reveal the progressive corruption of state institutions and show how the government turns the state into a power tool.

We also hope that we will be able to cause a debate on the weakening democracy in El Salvador and pay attention to the lack of regulations regarding the use of software such as Pegasus, which are also very dangerous and easy to use.Any government who has money for this can easily have access to journalists, human rights defenders, politicians.

Since the institutions are helpless, you can only count on citizens.How do Salvadors react to government actions?

José Luis Sanz: Salvador's society is divided.Some citizens are active, they oppose the abuse of power, but most believe the president.Maybe not blindly, but certainly with great hope.On the political map of El Salvador, many parties have been discredited in recent years, but unfortunately many better proposals have been created in their place.

Currently, most Salvadorians support the president or are silent.

What is the role of the media in this situation?

José Luis Sanz: Over the past 15 years, independent journalism has been constantly growing and became more and more important for public debate.I think El Faro showed the way and contributed to the development of investigative journalism and one that is involved in a long -term search for truth.The new generation of journalists no longer wants a journalism other than independent.Many portals are created, but even traditional media began to treat topics more seriously.

Another reason for the increase in the importance of journalism is also our consequence.We were dealing with a change in political awareness - the society ceased to tolerate the corruption of previous governments, about which the media reported.

Salvadors have become less tolerant of corruption and therefore focused on someone who introduced themselves to them as an outsider, although it is not at all.Our democracy is going through a difficult moment, but journalism still has a big impact on the public debate.Otherwise the government would not have such an obsession with.

Much of what you tell about the El Salvador is surprisingly fits Poland.Only that the head of the opposition party campaign during the election was eavesdropped with us, and the stolen and modified material was probably used to slander the opposition of the campaign in public media.In addition, the ruling party admitted that Pegasus is using.Are we a step behind or a step before the El Salvador?

José Luis Sanz (laughs): Well ... Bukele has already given up promoting his good image abroad, I will not be surprised if he finally gives up further maintaining appearances in El Salvador.Maybe there will be such a stage as in Poland and he will say openly that he is spying, persecuted journalists, opposition and civil society.

The government narrative is getting closer to this breakthrough.They still justify attacks on the media, saying that we are part of the structures with a political agenda, or that we get money from abroad to weaken the government.They already talk about us as a resistance movement.As if we deserved persecution.Maybe soon they will start to praise their attacks on the verge of law.

Sergio Arauz: In Poland you are probably experts in the matter of Pegasus, we probably see the tip of the iceberg for now.We still need to discover the rest.

How did wiretaps affect your work?

We are not sure yet, but some journalists are starting to notice that the informants have suffered as a result of wiretaps.I know about the cases of people who were released from work for the suspicion that they are talking to us.

We certainly learned a lot and we will be more careful, we will take care better about our informants.When we began to suspect that we were overheard, I warned the most important informants that we had to change customs.

We avoid phone calls, I taught them to use a safe VPN, we agreed that we would only talk through Signal [free encrypting messenger for Android and iOS/Apple, used the eye.Press - Red.], and before they call me, turn off and turn on the phone.

Why so?

We know that if you turn off your phone, you need to break into it with Pegasus, and it gives you some time.

Perhaps this is the difference between the amount of burglaries on the phone of various El Faro employees.

I would like to tell you that we already have a plan and a clear strategy of action ... but no, we don't have.I only know that what the government is doing.Maybe there will be fewer topics for some time, the informants will be more afraid, speak less or withdraw.

Many people tell me: it's clear that I will talk to you.We keep working.

I believe that even in the worst situation or system there will always be a crack or a crack that can create good journalism.We will not stop writing.To tell the truth, we even feel like more than before.They pissed us off.

Last question, maybe the most important.Where does strength come from you to fight with all this?

José Luis Sanz: I suspect it's about some hereditary El Salvadorian stubbornness rooted deep in culture.Salvador also has a story that somehow affects us all - even on me, a Spaniard who has lived in El Salvador for 20 years.Thanks to the history of the civil war [1979-1992, between the junta supported by the USA and the leftist partisan-Red.] we know what it means to lose democracy.

I think there are plenty of journalists in El Salvador who will not give up real journalism - no matter how many readers support us.Fortunately, many support us, but even those who do not ask for it, we must give good investigations, deepened articles.

A young generation of journalists has grown up in Central America who have a great sense of commitment to democracy and profession, although they start their careers in the most difficult conditions in 40 years.Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala follow a similar path.

The new generation is now making the best journalism in the history of Central America and is infected with this passion with each other.What pushes us forward in El Faro is the feeling that we are not alone.We have readers and we are part of a new journalistic tradition that will not give up.We managed under previous governments, we will survive, no matter how long it will last.

OKO pilnuje, żeby Polska nie wyszła z Europy. Wesprzyj nas, byśmy mogli działać dalej.WSPIERAMKomentarze



World, media, power, Latin America citizen lab investigative journalists nayib bukele pegasus wiretapputs salvador

Marta K. Nowak

A graduate of MISH at UAM, she graduated from Latin American studies under the Master Internacional En Estudios Latinoamericanos program.She lived in Latin America for 3 years.Polish woman by birth, a Brazilian by vocation.IN THE EYE.Press writes about health, migrants and prison borderlands (center in Gostynin).