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Mexico Must Establish Democratic Controls over State Surveillance

México debe establecer controles democráticos sobre la vigilancia estatal

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) calls on the Mexican government and national stakeholders to fully implement surveillance control regulations, including those initiated under engagement with OGP, in light of the recent Pegasus Project investigations. 

At least 180 journalists around the world were targeted by eleven governments using the software “Pegasus,” sold by the Israeli firm NSO Group. In Mexico alone, more than 15,000 cell phones belonging to activists, politicians, and journalists were listed as potential targets. The systematic use of surveillance by governments to target members of the media and human rights defenders poses a clear threat to democracy and undermines people’s freedoms of speech and assembly. 

In 2017, the former Mexican government was found to be targeting activists and journalists using the Pegasus software. This included journalists, activists and civil society leaders who took part in the OGP national process. This illegal surveillance led to the departure of civil society groups from open government talks and the termination of Mexico’s action plan. 

Once a new government was elected in 2018, Mexican civil society organizations such as Article 19, SocialTIC, R3D and others used OGP as a platform to advocate for greater accountability and oversight on government regulation, procurement and use of surveillance technologies.

A commitment was put in place to establish a group of experts from a variety of sectors and government agencies to analyze and modify regulations on the procurement and use of surveillance in private communications. 

Sanjay Pradhan, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Government Partnership says Mexico can be a pioneer in establishing the necessary frameworks and set a precedent for transparent, accountable, and participatory purchase, use, and disposal of surveillance technologies. 

“I call on national stakeholders to redouble their efforts to implement their commitment in their open government action plan aimed at creating democratic controls for the purchase and use of surveillance technology,” Pradhan said. This echoes civil society groups’ demands for the government to “comply with the commitment on democratic controls for the intervention of communications and clarify the use of Pegasus.”

Countries like Mexico have used OGP to increase transparency, accountability, and oversight over the procurement and deployment of surveillance technologies across jurisdictions targeted by the Pegasus software. OGP members are also pushing the needle to include provisions on surveillance reform in broader data protection and data sharing policies, and ensure that surveillance technologies used to tackle organized crime are implemented in compliance with international human rights frameworks. 

The Open Government Partnership stands ready to provide support to institutions, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders involved in this process to ensure transparent, democratic controls over the acquisition and use of surveillance technologies are in place. 

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About OGP:

In 2011, government leaders and civil society advocates came together to create a unique partnership—one that combines these powerful forces to promote accountable, responsive and inclusive governance.

Seventy-eight countries and a growing number of local governments—representing more than two billion people—along with thousands of civil society organizations are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

For questions or to set up interviews please contact communications@opengovpartnership.org.

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