Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has uncovered evidence of cyber-espionage using the Pegasus software on the mobile phones of Togolese journalists Loïc Lawson and Anani Sossou. Both journalists currently face legal action in Togo following a complaint filed by the Minister of Urbanism. RSF reports at least 23 intrusions into the phone of Loïc Lawson, the publisher of “Flambeau des démocrates,” during the first half of 2021.
The Togolese Minister of Urbanism, Adedze Kodjo, filed a complaint against journalists Loïc Lawson and Anani Sossou for publishing information about a substantial sum of money stolen from his residence. While not disputing the theft, Kodjo challenges the journalists’ disclosed amount, having never publicly disclosed the extent of the damages suffered.
RSF reveals that at least 23 intrusions by the Pegasus software were detected on Loïc Lawson’s phone during the first half of 2021. Togolese authorities have yet to respond to the allegations.
Pegasus is a highly sophisticated spyware capable of infiltrating smartphones without the user’s awareness, gaining access to all data, including messages, photos, contacts, and personal information. Developed by the Israeli company NSO, the company claims to provide technology to government agencies to combat crime and terrorism.
However, it appears that some governments misuse these powerful tools to spy on individuals in civil society, including human rights advocates, opposition figures, journalists, and lawyers.
Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s investigative bureau, notes that the two journalists have long been targeted by authorities: “Our investigation into the circumstances of the journalists’ detention revealed that they were also subjected to a cyber-espionage operation in 2021, at a time when Togo was a confirmed client of Pegasus.”