The Editors Guild of India Wednesday demanded an urgent inquiry by the Supreme Court into allegations of widespread surveillance of journalists, civil society activists, businessmen and politicians by Indian government agencies using Pegasus, a hacking software created by the Israeli company NSO Group.
The Guild pointed out NSO’s claims that the Pegasus software is sold only to government clients vetted by the Israeli government, which further strengthens the suspicion of government involvement in the surveillance.
The Guild expressed its concern for the weakening democratic values in India and noted:
“This is a movement 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”.
This comes after the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi were accused of “treason” by the opposition parties for compromising national security. A spokesperson of the Indian National Congress, one of India’s leading opposition parties, rhetorically asked whether spying on journalists and political leaders through a foreign entity’s spyware is not treason and an “inexcusable dismantling of national security”. However, Home Minister and top BJP leader Amit Shah denied all claims terming them as an attempt to “humiliate India at the world stage” and reiterating his party’s priority of “national welfare”.
In its demand for an independent inquiry, the Guild further pointed out the need for inclusion of “people of impeccable credibility” such as journalists in the inquiry committee, in order to ensure a fair investigation into the extent and intent of snooping using the Pegasus spyware.