Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 21
The Editors Guild of India demanded an urgent and independent inquiry into allegations of widespread surveillance on several Indians—a development that comes as the use of Pegasus spyware sent shocks across the country.
Among several people allegedly on the so-called surveillance list are several journalists and civil society activists, as well as some prominent critics of the current dispensation. The Wire, which is among a consortium of 17 publications that have published data that was shared with them from a leaked database by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, mentions that although the mention of a phone number on a list indicates a degree of interest in that number by the agency that put it there, the only sure way of confirming the hack is an analysis of the said phone.
Israel based NSO group, which sells Pegasus, has said it sells the software only to “vetted governments”, the reports say.
The Editor’s Guild of India said in its statement on Wednesday that the surveillance was “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,” the statement says.
Here’s the complete statement.
‘The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the 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. 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 its 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 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.’