NEW YORK–The Mexican government’s targeting of journalists and government critics through spyware is a serious attack on the privacy of those who have expressed criticism of the government, PEN America said today.

On June 19, Citizen Lab reported that Mexican journalists and human rights advocates had been targeted by hacking attempts designed to monitor their private communications, using software sold by a cyberarms manufacturer on condition that it only be used to monitor drug cartels and organized criminal groups. Mexican civil society groups R3D and SocialTic, as well as advocacy group Article 19, also co-released a similar report in Spanish. The reported targets include three journalists from Aristegui Noticias, a news anchor from Televisa, and two journalists from the investigative outlet Mexicanos Contra La Corrupción y la Impunidad. Also targeted by hacking attempts were the underage son of one of the journalists from Aristegui Noticias and staff from civil society groups working in fields including human rights, legal aid, anti-corruption, and economic competitiveness. 

The New York Times has stated that investigators are left with “few doubts” that the government or an actor within the government is responsible, and that it is “highly unlikely” such monitoring received the necessary judicial approval. The government has denied the allegations.

“This type of invasive monitoring, obtained through underhanded and possibly illegal means, is an egregious assault on the privacy of these Mexican citizens by their own government. Where journalists have been targeted, it is also clearly an attack on the press,” said James Tager, Free Expression Programs Manager for PEN America. “The Mexican government should announce an independent and public investigation into these allegations immediately, and should make public guarantees at the highest level that any such monitoring of government critics will be halted at once and never repeated.”

Journalists, human rights advocates, and anti-corruption activists have long been targeted by organized criminal groups, though increasingly public officials are being linked to violence towards journalists. Vocal government critics are harassed, threatened, and killed with near-total impunity in Mexico, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.

PEN America has previously raised concerns about the dangers facing journalists in Mexico, most recently the abduction of Salvador Adame Pardo.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more, visit 

Sarah Edkins, PEN America: [email protected], +1 646.779.4830