The Pegasus Threat: Unlawful Surveillance of Indonesian Citizens Approaching 2024 General Elections

What is Pegasus? This comic is a 101 explainer of the military-grade spyware and the recent IndonesiaLeaks investigation that unveils its threat in Indonesia and what it might mean for democracy in the rest of Southeast Asia.

What is Pegasus, anyway?
How is it different from other spywares?

What did the IndonesiaLeaks report reveal?

What will the government do with such data?

What does this mean for democracy?

What do we need to do now?

Conclusion

As we approach the Indonesian general election year of 2024, it is increasingly important that we safeguard our democracy from such blatant breaches as what is currently being conducted with Pegasus. While we must continue supporting investigative journalism and digital forensic activities, CSOs have neither the scope of access nor funding necessary to combat widespread unlawful surveillance conducted via foreign military-grade malwares.

What we need to do is to keep raising awareness and make as much noise as possible to increase pressure on the government to stop their actions and provide transparency and accountability via a special investigative team. You can also follow the Pegasus Project investigations on Forbidden Stories to keep up with what is happening worldwide, as well as IndonesiaLeaks for related investigations in Indonesia.

Spread the word, share this Explainer, or write to us about your own thoughts and questions on Pegasus and unlawful surveillance against citizens. For further research on media freedom in Southeast Asia, check out our Media Freedom in Southeast Asia Project.

Footnotes
  1. More information on these country-specific usages can be found on the following links:
  2. Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud, Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware (London: Pan Macmillan UK, 2023). Note that a few contemporary sources claim that the list of 50,000 names have all been targeted. However, according to this source, they are potential but unconfirmed targets. Meanwhile, NSO has denied their involvement in this list, as stated on https://m.calcalistech.com/Article.aspx?guid=3912882 
  3. Jaring.ID has several comprehensive coverages on the details of the Pegasus purchase. Please see https://jaring.id/jejak-alat-sadap-israel-di-indonesia/ (only available in Bahasa Indonesia) for more details.
  4. Suggestions were made by various reports, such as this article on TEMPO (https://magz.tempo.co/read/law/40698/who-use-pegasus-in-indonesia). The Indonesian National Police has admitted to using zero-click spywares since 2010, but never Pegasus, and always conducted in a lawful manner, according to Inspector General Slamet Uliandi in this Jaring.ID interview: https://jaring.id/polri-tidak-pakai-pegasus/ 
  5. News on this has surfaced only a few weeks after Khashoggi’s death. Snowden’s report is covered, among others, on https://www.businessinsider.com/edward-snowden-israeli-spyware-nso-group-pegasus-jamal-khashoggi-murder-2018-11 
  6. This quote was taken from a press conference by AJI and SAFENet at ke:kini Ruang Bersama, Jakarta, on 20 June 2023.
  7. Already last year, Reuters reported that “The targets included Chief Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto, senior military personnel, two regional diplomats, and advisers in Indonesia’s defence and foreign affairs ministries.” https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/exclusive-senior-indonesian-officials-targeted-by-spyware-last-year-sources-2022-09-30/
Image Credits

This comic utilises materials from free royalty photos from Shutterstock and Unsplash. Instances of Shutterstock’s ethically-sourced AI image generation were used as source material to be further edited. The photo of Jamal Khashoggi was originally taken by April Brady and used under a CC BY 2.0 license. The group photo in Question 3 belongs to the author and is used with permission from all subjects in the photo.

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