IACHR and RFOE: Dominican Republic Must Investigate Spying on Investigative Journalist Using Pegasus Spyware

June 1, 2023

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) expressed their concern over allegations that the communications of investigative journalist Nuria Piera are being subjected to illegal surveillance in the Dominican Republic. In response, they have called on the State to carry out a complete, exhaustive investigation of the facts and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

Nuria Piera is an investigative journalist whose work focuses primarily on corruption and impunity in the Dominican Republic. According to Amnesty International, whose Security Lab analyzed the journalist's mobile device, she had allegedly been the target of surveillance using the NSO Group's Pegasus software on at least three occasions between 2020 and 2021. Ms. Piera has stated that she was working on sensitive investigations of extreme public interest at the time her device was infected with the spyware.

The State noted that it respects the right to privacy and freedom of expression and that it condemns any attempts to engage in selective, illegal surveillance of any citizen, especially a journalist. It also emphasized that wiretapping can only be carried out with judicial authorization, noting that the process for obtaining a warrant of this sort is rigorous and requires solid evidence to justify the need for it. The State added that during the current administration, which began on August 16, 2020, it has not contracted the services of the NSO Group or any other company operating in this field whose activities violate human rights and individual guarantees.

As stated in the 2013 Joint Statement from the UN and OAS Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression on Surveillance Programs and their Impact on Freedom of Expression, "any surveillance of communications and interference with privacy that exceeds what is stipulated in the law, has ends that differ from those which the law permits, or is carried out clandestinely must be harshly punished."

Illegitimate interference with the communications of human rights defenders and journalists violates their right to privacy but also endangers the rights inherent to the practice of journalism, including the confidentiality and integrity of sources and the rights to life and physical integrity of those around them. Such activities also contribute to creating a climate of self-censorship among journalists, especially those who investigate and report on sensitive issues of public interest, such as corruption, security, and national defense.

In response to the above considerations, the IACHR and the RFOE have called on the State to carry out an exhaustive, impartial investigation of the events and to prosecute and punish those responsible. In line with the statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, they have called for an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology until such time as regulatory frameworks are established in line with human rights.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas, given the fundamental role that this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 106/23

4:29 PM