French media platform wins EU prize for Pegasus spyware revelations

The EU Parliament on Thursday awarded its journalism prize, named after murdered Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia, to the French media nonprofit, Forbidden Stories, for its investigation into the Israeli-made spyware Pegasus. 

The 20,000-euro ($23,000) prize was set up by the European Parliament at the end of 2019 in honour of the journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who was killed by a car bomb in 2017.

The prize is awarded every year on the anniversary of Caruana Galizia’s death “to reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values”, with the winner picked by an independent panel. 

Forbidden Stories is a collaborative platform set up in 2017 at the initiative of French documentary maker Laurent Richard, with the support of Reporters Without Borders, and brings together more than 30 different media from around the world. 

In July 2021, more than 80 reporters from 17 media organisations in 10 countries revealed that Pegasus spyware had been sold by the Israeli cyber intelligence company, NSO Group Technologies, to governments and used against at least 50,000 people around the world.  

The leaked data showed that at least 180 journalists, as well as human rights defenders, religious leaders, politicians and military staff had been targeted in countries including India, Mexico, Hungary, Morocco and France.

Forbidden Stories undertook its first investigation, dubbed the “Daphne project”, was at the end of 2017. 

Over six months, 45 journalists from 18 different media sifted through Caruana Galizia’s massive store of documents into Malta’s controversial “golden passports” scheme. 

The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. 

Forbidden Stories has also investigated Mexican drug cartels and the so-called “Green Blood” project on environmental damage and other abuses by mining companies in India, Tanzania and Guatemala.