Polish state TV used text messages stolen via Pegasus to attack opposition

A Polish court has confirmed that the country’s state TV service TVP used manipulated SMS messages that were stolen from an opposition politician using the Pegasus spyware, colluding with the now-former ruling party.

According to OKO Press, the court in Bydgoszcz ruled that TVP – which was as good as hijacked by the ruling Law and Justice party during its eight years in power – now has to apologize to Krzysztof Brejza, whose private SMS messages, stolen with the help of Pegasus, it published in 2019.

TVP will also have to pay Brejza financial compensation. And because it has already been established by independent researchers that the Pegasus spyware was used by the former Polish government, it’s a clear confirmation that the state TV colluded with it in executing politically motivated operations.

Brejza’s wife and lawyer, Dorota Brejza, wrote on X that the case illustrates “the pathological mechanics of TVP” and added this was the story of “the criminal collusion of the secret services, the prosecutor’s office, and TVP.”

In 2019, Brezja, who is now an MP, was running in the Senate elections, but TVP used his private messages to damage his reputation in a smear campaign. The Civic Platform party – now in power – also allegedly suffered.

Two years later, in 2021, Citizen Lab, a spyware research group based at the University of Toronto, worked with the Associated Press to discover that Brejza’s cell phone was compromised a total of 33 times in the six months leading to the election and that the Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, its Israel-based developer, was used.

Naturally, after the hacking revelation, Brejza questioned whether the election was fair. Now, he’s content that the court has essentially confirmed he was right.

"For the first time, the court confirmed that my phone was infected with Pegasus, and for the first time it recognized that it could have influenced the course of the election campaign. These are the standards of modern Russia or Belarus," said Brejza.

In 2022, the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry, investigating the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA), got the NSO group to confirm that at least 14 EU member states, including Poland, had purchased the Pegasus spyware.

Spyware was used to monitor, intimidate, and discredit opponents, journalists, and civil society in parts of the EU, the committee later said after a year-long investigation.

Critics say that Poland’s state-run media, in particular the 24-hour news channel TVP Info, became an outlet for propaganda during Law and Justice's (PiS) eight years in office. The party has since moved to opposition after it lost the parliamentary election in October.

The new prime minister Donald Tusk’s government is already taking action. The management of TVP, public radio, and news agency PAP have been dismissed, the culture ministry said on Wednesday. The signal of TVP Info also disappeared.

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