Mexican government spies on critical voices

In the midst of a wave of unpunished violence against journalists and human rights defenders, it has come to light that the Mexican government is running surveillance and spying on members of the press, activists and political parties. Human rights organizations are calling for an investigation of these acts by a panel of independent experts.

The human rights organizations signing this communiqué express our profound concern and indignation over the spying on members of Mexican civil society, journalists opposition political parties and officials from international organizations who have criticized the current government. These cases of spying must be investigated in a transparent and serious manner, taking into account the call for the creation of an independent international panel of experts.

The investigations by Citizen Lab, Article 19, R3D and SocialTIC published in The New York Times cite evidence of multiple cases of surveillance and espionage with spyware called Pegasus that can only be sold to governments for exclusive use to investigate alleged criminals and terrorists. Victims of this form of spying and surveillance include journalists, human rights defenders and other activists who have published information on corruption, irregular public contracts, public health decisions and grave human rights violations committed under this administration and during the mandate of President Enrique Peña Nieto as governor of the State of Mexico, as well as opposition political parties.

According to revelations made public on July 10, members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, who were providing technical assistance to the Mexican government in the case of the 43 missing students forcibly disappeared in the State of Guerrero, it seems they were also being spied upon. The malware infiltrates cellphones via text message with a link that enables the secret installation of the software to allow monitoring of all cellular activity, including emails, encrypted messages, calls, camera and microphone.

These spying revelations come at one of the most violent times for journalists and human rights defenders in Mexico, with the murders of at least seven journalists and six activists so far this year. Impunity continues to be the rule in these cases, and the actions taken by the government have not managed to guarantee justice or sanctions for those who attack voices critical of the government and its officials.

Response from the Mexican government to allegations of spying has been inadequate and appears to count on people forgetting about this scandal. The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic and its Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE, according to its acronym in Spanish) have announced they have opened an investigation into the surveillance and asked for support from the United Nations and the FBI. However, the terms under which this cooperation are being requested are neither transparent nor clear and, in the case of the US, the US Ambassador to Mexico said this support has not been requested officially.

The organizations signing below join members of Mexican civil society and some of the members of the IACHR in demanding that an independent panel of international experts be created, outside of the Mexican authorities, to carry out an investigation to arrive at serious and credible results for the victims of spying and for Mexican society. At the same time, we call on the Mexican government to reveal the contracts and documents related to the acquisition and use of spyware.


Amnesty International
Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad (Dejusticia)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
JASS (Just Associates)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights