The European Parliament awarded the EU's top journalism prize on Thursday to reporters, including from Haaretz, who revealed that spyware developed by an Israeli company had been used against dissidents, human rights activists and politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron.
Haaretz was among the 17 media organizations involved in the exposé, with Omer Benjakob of Haaretz and Amitai Ziv of the paper's financial supplement TheMarker contributing to the investigation over the past several months.
The parliament awarded the inaugural prize of 20,000 euros ($23,222) to the group of outlets, which were led by Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories and received technical support from Amnesty International.
The "Pegasus Project" investigation concluded that people across 50 countries had been targeted for potential surveillance, in what Amnesty and the media organizations said highlighted attempts to silence activists and a free press.
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"An unprecedented leak of more than 50,000 phone numbers selected for surveillance by the customers of the Israeli company NSO Group shows how this technology has been systematically abused for years," the EU parliament said in a statement.
NSO has rejected the reporting, saying in a statement in July that it was "full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories." It has said its Pegasus software is intended for use only by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
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The Pegasus Project findings prompted Israel to set up a senior inter-ministerial team to look into the allegations that the spyware had been abused on a global scale.
Amnesty called for better protection of the media.
"It is vital that EU countries address these abuses, protect journalists and rights defenders, and ensure robust and meaningful regulation over the cyber-surveillance industry both at home and abroad," said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International's European institutions office.
The EU prize, known as the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, is named after a Maltese investigative reporter who was killed by a car bomb four years ago.
The winner of the prize was chosen by an independent jury composed of representatives of the media and civil society from the EU's 27 states and representatives of the European Associations of Journalism.
Haaretz contributed to this report.