Press under Attack – Digital Strategies to Intimidate Journalists in Latin America

Stop Pegasus: Costa Rica is the first country to call for a moratorium on spyware technology

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Access Now supports Costa Rica’s call for a global moratorium on spyware technology, made publicly by Ambassador Catalina Devandas, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations in Geneva. At  Protecting Defenders Online, a virtual side conversation at U.N. Human Rights Council’s 49th session, hosted by Access Now, and the United States and European Union Trade and Technology Council (U.S.-EU TTC) Partnership, Ambassador Devandas became the first state representative in the world to publicly call for the “immediate moratorium on the use of spyware technology until a regulatory framework that protects human rights is implemented.”

The call from Ambassador Devandas comes just weeks before the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, an event that this year will focus on journalism under surveillance. Until now, most of the momentum demanding accountability for the use of Pegasus spyware has been driven by civil society and international organizations, while governments remain largely silent, despite regularly reported new confirmed cases of infection. 

“States hold the keys to freeing us all from dangerous spyware like Pegasus, because it’s allegedly only sold to states,” said Peter Micek, Access Now’s General Counsel and UN Policy Manager. “In the end, anyone can be targeted with this technology, including government officials, so a moratorium on spyware will secure their digital lives, too.” 

“Pegasus abuse can be stopped, but states must commit to it,” said Ángela Alarcón, Access Nows’s Campaigner for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Costa Rica’s pressing call for a moratorium on spyware should be seen as an invitation for other states to publicly reject dangerous technology, and place a hold on utilizing tools that have proved to facilitate human rights violations.”

A comprehensive moratorium on spyware technology must apply to the sale, transfer, and use of such technology. Any future framework should be based on international human rights standards for the use of communications surveillance, including necessity and proportionality.

“Let’s keep the conversation going, move swiftly to action and please count on Costa Rica’s support,” concluded Ambassador Devanda at the end of her intervention.