The simultaneous news reports by seventeen publications including thewire.in and news organizations around the world of the Israeli NSO’s Pegasus software being used by governments and government agencies to hack the cell phones of journalists, politicians, activists and citizens has been followed by more details in subsequent stories. The French president Emanuel Macron is among the global political leaders whose phones were infected by the Pegasus spyware and the French government has already ordered an inquiry.
While the Indian government’s representatives or loyalists have been in complete denial in parliament and on television, opposition leaders have been asking for a discussion in parliament, a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation and also enquiries under the aegis of the Supreme Court. On 21 July 2021, the Editors Guild of India issued a statement which is given below.
‘The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the media reports on the wide spread surveillance, allegedly mounted by government agencies, on journalists, civil society activists, businessmen and politicians, using a hacking software known as Pegasus, created and developed by the Israeli company NSO. The reports, which have been published worldwide over the last few days by a consortium of 17 publications, points towards surveillance by multiple governments across the world. Since NSO claims that it only sells this software to governments clients vetted by the Government of Israel, it deepens suspicion of involvement of Indian government agencies in snooping on it’s own citizens.
While some of the instances of surveillance might have been targeted against those who may be seen as credible national security threat, what is disturbing is that a large [number] of such targets were journalists and civil society activists. This is a brazen and unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech and press. This act of snooping essentially conveys that journalism and political dissent are now equated with ‘terror.’ How can a constitutional democracy survive if governments do not make an effort to protect freedom of speech and allows surveillance with such impunity?
This is a moment that demands deep introspection and inquiry into the kind of society we are heading towards, and how far we may have veered away from the democratic values enshrined in our constitution.
The Guild demands an urgent and independent inquiry into these snooping charges, under the aegis of Supreme Court of India. We also demand that this inquiry committee should include people of impeccable credibility from different walks of life – including journalists and civil society – so that it can independently investigate the facts around the extent and intent of snooping using the services of Pegasus.’
Thanks and regards,
Seema Mustafa, President
Sanjay Kapoor, General Secretary
Anant Nath, Treasurer
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