New Delhi: Various journalist bodies and individuals have expressed outrage at the recent revelations of being targets or potential targets of snooping of their phones by Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.
While the Press Club of India and the Indian Women’s Press Corp on Monday expressed concern over surveillance by a foreign agency, NAJ and DUJ issued a joint statement condemning the use of journalists as “guinea pigs” by using “dubious international spyware Pegasus on Indian Journalists in particular and voices of democratic dissent, in an attempt to browbeat them further.”
Among the named of 40 journalists who were tracked are veterans such as Siddharth Varadarajan, Paranjoy GuhaThakurta, Sushant Sinha, Ritika Chopra, Vijiata Singh, Shishir Gupta, Muzammil Jalil, Iftikhar Geelani among others.
The statement called for a full-fledged debate in Parliament on the issue. Citing the killing of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was also racked through the Pegasus spyware, they called for the Indian government to “come clean” and appealed to the press to remain “more vigilant on increasing attacks on press freedom, dignity of journalists and their rights.”
Read the full statement below:
JOURNALISTS ARE NOT GUINEA PIGS FOR DUBIOUS EXPERIMENTS –NAJ,DUJ
The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) jointly today castigated the use of dubious international spyware Pegasus on Indian Journalists in particular-and voices of democratic dissent, in an attempt to browbeat them further. Surely the era of using journalists and others as guinea pigs for dubious national and international experiments cannot be allowed to continue in a modern era to crush the right to freedom of expression and human rights of citizens too.
In a joint statement National Alliance of Journalists and DUJ president S.K.Pande, Secretary General N. Kondaiah, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok noted that Pegasus is a spyware developed by an Israeli company NSO- and its working makes it near impossible for a victim to know that she/he has been hacked. If facts coming out are any indication, the central government, the statement noted, could have touched a new threshold in the war against journalism and freedom of expression. In fact, the government seems to have unleashed a new weapon in the road to what is increasingly being referred to as an ‘undeclared Emergency’. A full fledged debate in Parliament is the need of the hour, they added.
It may be recalled, that following random reports of phones of a few individuals in the country being compromised by the Pegasus spyware, the recently released blockbuster report based on investigative work by an international group of journalists, indeed requires to be taken more seriously. The NSO group, the Israeli high-tech company, which supplies the technology and the expertise, claims that it only sells this technology to governments engaged in fighting terrorism. Before selling to clients, it needs the clearance of the Israeli government.
The efficacy of Pegasus and its use by governments first came to light in Mexico. The phones of Investigative journalists in that country were compromised on the orders of the government. The current Mexican President had, in fact, ordered a thorough investigation of the use of this spyware. It is to be noted too that the activities of the late Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was tracked through the Pegasus spyware. Surely, in India too the government should come clean on this issue and the press should remain more vigilant on increasing attacks on press freedom, dignity of journalists and their rights.
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S.K.Pande N.Kondaiah Sujata Madhok
President – NAJ Secretary General -NAJ General Secretary -DUJ