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22 Sep 2021

Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian

Hungary: Phones of investigative journalist who exposed hidden luxuries of businessmen and politicians hacked with NSO Pegasus spyware; incl. co. comments

'Phones of journalist who tracked Viktor Orban’s childhood friend infected with spyware', 21 September 2021

Dániel Németh, a Budapest-based photojournalist, has tried to keep a low profile in his groundbreaking work investigating and documenting the luxury lifestyle of Hungary’s ruling elite... to find and photograph politicians and pro-government business figures, exposing their hidden luxuries such as yachts in exotic locations... An investigation by Direkt36, an investigative media outlet and member of the Pegasus Project consortium, which has investigated NSO Group, has revealed that two of Németh’s phones were recently hacked by a government client of the Israeli spyware company...

The hacks occurred in July 2021 while Németh was reporting on the whereabouts of one of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán’s, childhood friends, Lőrinc Mészáros, a former gas fitter who has become one of Hungary’s richest men in the past few years. Mészáros has built a business empire that sprawls across multiple sectors since Orbán came to power in 2010, and his companies often win lucrative government tenders. In 2019, Forbes named him the richest person in Hungary...

A spokesperson for Mészáros’s company said in a statement: “Mr Mészáros does not pay attention to neither Dániel Németh, nor any other paparazzi’s activities, whereabouts or incidents related to them.”

While it cannot be forensically proven which of NSO’s clients targeted Németh, because such analysis examines only whether a phone has been infected, the new revelation comes as Orbán’s far-right government is facing scrutiny in Brussels for its alleged use of the Pegasus spying tool against journalists, media owners, and political opposition figures...

A spokesperson for the Hungarian government did not respond to a request for comment... NSO declined to comment on the case specifically...