The professional phone number of Cecilio Pineda was selected for surveillance by a Mexican client of NSO Group, several weeks before he was murdered in March 2017. Pineda’s phone cannot be found which made it impossible for Forbidden Stories to analyze it to confirm the infection.
Who is he?
Cecilio Pineda was an independent journalist, reporting mostly on local news. He collaborated with several national newspapers in Mexico, including, since 2012, El Universal and La Jornada. He also regularly published videos on his Facebook page which had almost 50,000 followers. He would film himself live, denouncing the links between local officials and drug traffickers in Tierra Caliente, one of the most dangerous region in Mexico because the criminality induced by the culture of opium.
Pineda’s work got him in trouble more than once. In September 2014, two armed men threatened him in front of his home. As they were leaving, one of them said: “The gunshots are a message we’re sending you in response to your reporting.”
In December 2016, he reported on protests led by a group called “Movement for peace” that was demanding a right to self-defense. They were acquiring weapons in order to defend themselves against a gang ruling over the city of San Miguel Totolapan and called “Los Tequileros”. Pineda met with them daily to report on their fight. He condemned the links between local authorities and the leader of the gang. More specifically, he focused on a local elected official, Saul Orozco Beltrán, seen at parties organized by “El Tequilero”.
Forbidden Stories got access to a voice recording from 2016 in which Pineda claimed that the Guerrero governor, Hector Astudillo, was also linked to Saul Orozco Beltran, whom the local prosecutor has called “The number 1 Tequilero”.
In March 2017, Pinedo was waiting for his car to be washed when he received six bullets in the torso. It took half and hour for an ambulance to arrive, he died on his way to the hospital. He was 39 years old.
Cecilio Pineda's last video Facebook (2017)Read
Cecilio Pineda video about a self-defense group Agencia de Noticias México (2016)Read
"Arcelia mourns for its 20 dead" Noticias Guerrero (2016)Read
Mexican authorities did not answer Forbidden Stories’ questions on the surveillance of journalists. NSO Group did not answer Forbidden Stories’ questions on specific targets but said it “will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations.”