June 23, 2021 (El Financiero).- Espionage against journalists is expanding at a speed that was not known in previous governments, and the number of officials of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who are looking for the sources of information of journalists or tracking if they have hidden interests that permeate their opinions. This is an issue where the press does not usually report because, unless the government is caught practically red-handed, it has no way of knowing which journalists are subject to investigation. But secrets are not forever.
Javier Tejado, who has access to privileged information, denounced the espionage against several columnists on Tuesday, June 22. In his column in El Universal, Tejado affirmed that the Undersecretary of Security and Citizen Protection, Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, requested information on columnists – like himself – who have written about the National Register of Mobile Telephone Users, which has been denounced as an interference in the private lives of citizens with objectives that go beyond fighting crime, as the authorities argue.
Tejado wrote: “In this abuse of power, they seek to find journalists’ links with mobile phone companies, which denotes little capacity for self-criticism due to a law that is simply poorly designed.”
This espionage requested by Mejía Berdeja was raised by Tejado as a contradiction of the official and the government he represents. “Spying on journalists, evidences the misuse that certain officials can make if the information and biometrics of cell phone users were handed over to them,” Tejado points out,
Tejado does not abound in which agency he requested information from, but it is inferred from his text that it did not go to the Mexico Platform, attached to the Secretariat of Security. There are not many other agencies that can do it, but the request has probably been made directly to the National Intelligence Center, which replaced the CISEN, under the responsibility of General Audomaro Martínez, an old friend and collaborator of President López Obrador, who has said repeatedly that political espionage was eradicated in his government. Which is a lie.
Tejado spoke of an espionage line, but it is not the only one. The National Intelligence Center has open investigations, requested in the National Palace, against several political columnists who have published texts that have bothered them. Some are subject to permanent investigation, like two other collaborators of El Universal, Carlos Loret and Héctor de Mauleón. Two more from that newspaper have also been subjected to investigation by the civil intelligence service, Mario Maldonado, who writes a column in the business section, and Salvador García Soto, who has a political column. López Obrador has publicly complained about another columnist for that newspaper, Roberto Rock because he has access to privileged information, but it is not known if he too has been subjected to an investigation.
The National Intelligence Center is not the only one involved in spying on journalists. The Secretary of Defense, General Luis Cresencio Sandoval, ordered to place direct physical surveillance and intercept phone calls and emails from an EL FINANCIERO columnist who last October made preparations for the National Guard to become the Secretary of National Defense.
While on the other hand, the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection reactivated the modular malware Pegasus, which is sold by the Israeli company NSO Group – and which has several distributors in Mexico -, which penetrates mobile devices and can read all messages, emails, view the internet search history, extract photos and stored files, find passwords, contacts and intervene calls.
Pegasus gained notoriety during the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto because the Citizens Lab of the University of Toronto discovered that it was being used to spy on activists and journalists, which was a scandal. This has not been the case in the López Obrador government, despite several complaints in the past about espionage.
In this space, for example, it was published in October that the National Intelligence Center had been investigating the leaders of the National Anti-AMLO Front and the activists who were protesting the loss of water in the La Boquilla press in Chihuahua. A month later, El Universal resumed the existence of an investigation into the leaders of the so-called FRENAAA, which the government denied.
The López Obrador government has been spying on all sides. A Navy intelligence unit dedicated to monitoring drug cartels was ordered to stop monitoring them to dedicate themselves to obtaining sensitive information from businessmen, to be used against those who resisted blackmail to pay taxes additional to those that had to cover. It is not something new that this type of espionage occurs, but it is a contradiction between what the President says and the facts. In the past, spy refusals were less vehement and sought plausible ways out – without much success, by the way.
Spying on journalists is certainly not new. During the government of President Ernesto Zedillo, this newspaper published the list of eight of them whom the then Secretary of the Interior, Emilio Chauyfett, had requested to investigate. A short time before, the journalist Jorge Luis Sierra revealed in a now-defunct portal, To2, the military intelligence files of several journalists watched from the government of José López Portillo until the 1990s. This represents a variation of espionage on journalists, and this is how they have increased the number of columnists under monitoring.
This government democratized espionage against journalists in a progressive way, with political objectives. This is at least what Tejado demonstrates in his column. He worries and alarms, as he points out, the abuse of the powers of officials and the lack of internal controls to contain the excesses of power. Unlike in the past, those counterweights no longer exist. On the contrary, they have closed ranks against the new enemy, the columnists.
Source: El Financiero
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