Sevinc Vaqifqizi’s phone was infected with Pegasus in 2019 and 2020, according to a forensics analysis by Amnesty International’s Security Lab, in partnership with the Forbidden Stories consortium. The infections of her phone continued through to the end of 2020.
Who is she?
Sevinc Vaqifqizi is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to Meydan TV and Azadliq.info, two independent sites known to publish work critical of the Azeri political establishment.
Like fellow Azeri journalist Khadija Ismayoliva, Vaqifqizi was banned from leaving Azerbaijan in 2015, after she reported on protests in the region of Mingachevir following the death of a young man who had been taken into police custody. The journalist has come under various physical and legal threats as a reporter in Azerbaijan.
In 2018, the journalist published a two-minute video alleging voter fraud at a polling station in Baku during the snap presidential elections held in April of that year, which were won by the ruling party despite allegations of wide-spread voting violations. The director of the polling center – a school – accused her of libel in a case that lasted more than a year.
In February 2020, while covering a protest against election results, Vaqifqizi was one of eight reporters beaten by police officers, receiving bruises on her face and arms. In 2021, she moved to Germany for a three-month fellowship program.
Azerbaijani authorities did not respond to detailed questions sent by Forbidden Stories and its partners. 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.”