Unconstitutional Attack on Press: Editors Guild on the Pegasus Project
The statement said this snooping conveys that journalism and political dissent are now equated with ‘terror’.
As the Pegasus Project continues to reveal the extent of possible surveillance on Indian citizens, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) in a statement released on Wednesday, 21 July, expressed its shock over media reports on “the widespread 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".
A report published by an Indian online news portal on Sunday, 18 July, revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of over 40 senior journalists, opposition leaders, government officials and rights activists.
The leaked list of names was provided to The Wire and 15 other international news organisations by France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories, and Amnesty International, as part of a collaborative investigation called the 'Pegasus Project'.
Brazen and Unconstitutional Attack on Freedom of Speech and Press
The Guild stated that, “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 its own citizens.”
It added that while some of the instances of surveillance might have been targeted against those who were seen as a potential national security threat, EGI found it disturbing that, “a large number of such targets were journalists and civil society activists".
The statement further said, "This act of snooping essentially conveys that journalism and political dissent are now equated with ‘terror’."
The Guild asked, "How can a constitutional democracy survive if governments do not make an effort to protect freedom of speech and allows surveillance with such impunity?"
Stating the need for deep introspection and enquiry into the kind of society India is heading towards, the Guild demanded an independent probe into the snooping charges, "under the aegis of Supreme Court of India".
The EGI also demanded that the committee includes people of "impeccable credibility", including journalists and members of the civil society.
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