Hungarian opposition demands inquiry into alleged spying

Photo: AP Janos Stummer

Opposition lawmakers in Hungary demanded an inquiry into findings by an international investigation that the country’s right-wing government used malware to spy on critical journalists, politicians and business figures, news wires reported.

The investigation by a global media consortium suggested that military-grade spyware from Israel-based NSO Group, an infamous hacker-for-hire outfit, was used in Hungary to infiltrate the digital devices of a range of targets, including at least 10 lawyers, one opposition politician and at least five journalists.

The results of the investigation, headed by the French nonprofit journalism organisation Forbidden Stories, prompted three members of Hungary’s parliamentary national security committee to call for an emergency session to question government agencies on their potential involvement in the spying.

Janos Stummer, the committee’s chairman and a lawmaker from the right-wing opposition party Jobbik, told The AP that the surveillance described by the investigation is “not permissible in a state governed by the rule of law.” “Our perspective is that staying silent would essentially be an acknowledgement that the government is indeed involved in this,” he added.

The committee will question Hungary’s national security and intelligence agencies on the allegations, Stummer pointed out, adding that a majority of seats on the committee are held by governing party lawmakers who could potentially block the inquiry by boycotting the session.

A spokesperson for the Hungarian government earlier denied knowledge of any data collection. The allegations of government spying come amid a rapid deterioration in press freedom in Hungary. Since PM Viktor Orban and his governing Fidesz party took power in 2010, the country has slipped from 23 to 92 in the World Press Freedom Index ranking.

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