A preliminary investigation into the alleged surveillance of Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis on Monday was ordered by the head of the Athens Prosecutor’s Office Sotiria Papageorgopoulou.
The prosecutor tasked with the inquiry will seek to determine whether there has been a breach of telecommunications secrecy and, if yes, by whom.
The action comes after investigative news outlet Inside Story (IS) revealed that Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for CNN Greece and a regular contributor for local and international outlets, discovered that his mobile phone had been hacked by spyware Predator, from July 12 to September 24, 2021.
The spyware was developed by Cytrox, a company in North Macedonia.
The journalist was informed of the hacking after requesting the assistance of the digital rights group Citizen Lab, based in the University of Toronto, in late March.
Citizen Lab added that it could not confirm whether the spyware was used by the Greek government or a private company, according to the IS report.
During the time of the surveillance, Koukakis was covering topics relating to alleged money laundering and corruption in the banking sector.
In a separate news report a few days later, investigative outlet Reporters United (RU) alleged it had seen documents showing that Koukakis was also under surveillance by Greek state intelligence service EYP a year before the phone hack by Predator.
According to the report, EYP had cited reasons of “national security” in the documents. RU said the surveillance started in June 1, 2020 and ended abruptly on August 12.
Koukakis told CPJ that Citizen Lab researchers believed his phone was infected through a text message containing a link that he clicked on July 12.
Koukakis said he previously noticed his phone acting strangely in 2020 and suspected it may have been infected with spyware.
That August, he filed a complaint with the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy, which later said it did not find any evidence of a breach of privacy on his phone.
When Koukakis was targeted by spyware in 2021, he was using a new phone he had purchased since that incident, he said.
Koukakis told CPJ that on April 6, 2022, he filed a new complaint to the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy and sent them Citizen Lab’s report on his case. He said he also planned to file a criminal complaint over the surveillance.
Greek government spokesperson Yannis Economou denied that the government had any involvement in surveilling Koukakis, according to news reports.