[Press Freedom\Saudi Arabia]
The hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone occurred during a period, May-June 2018, in which the phones of three close associates of Jamal Khashoggi, Yahya Assiri, Omar Abdulaziz and Ghanem Al Masarir were also hacked, allegedly using the Pegasus malware.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday joined U.N. human rights experts in calling for an investigation into the alleged hacking of The Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The U.N. experts called the alleged hacking “an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.”
Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in the joint statement that they had received information suggesting spyware “such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus-3 malware” was installed on Bezos’ phone via a WhatsApp message from an account “utilized personally by Mohammed bin Salman,” the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
The joint statement also noted that: “following the hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone, the Crown Prince sent WhatsApp messages to Mr. Bezos, in November 2018 and February 2019, in which he allegedly revealed private and confidential information about Mr. Bezos’ personal life that was not available from public sources. During the same period, Mr. Bezos was widely targeted in Saudi social media as an alleged adversary of the Kingdom. This was part of a massive, clandestine online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon, apparently targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post.”
“We are deeply alarmed by the allegation that the Saudi crown prince used spyware to undermine or suppress The Washington Post,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. “An independent investigation is urgently needed into the allegations that Mohammed bin Salman was personally implicated in a hacking attack on Jeff Bezos.”
Callamard and Kaye said the hacking allegations “are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims that the prince was involved in the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.” They also noted that “The hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone occurred during a period, May-June 2018, in which the phones of three close associates of Jamal Khashoggi, Yahya Assiri, Omar Abdulaziz and Ghanem Al Masarir were also hacked, allegedly using the Pegasus malware.”
The University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab has published research suggesting an actor in Saudi Arabia used Pegasus to surveil Abdulaziz, as Abdulaziz described to CPJ in 2018.