Press Council of India (PCI) and other media bodies have condemned the attempt to snoop on journalists using Pegasus- a surveillance malware. It was designed by an Israeli firm NSO and is only sold to governments and not private players. A global consortium of more than 80 journalists from 17 outlets in 10 countries, coordinated by Paris based Forbidden Stories with technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab conducted the investigation called the “Pegasus Project”.
NSO group wrote a letter to Forbidden Stories and its media partners that it “cannot confirm or deny the identity of our government customers” because of “contractual and national security considerations.”
The investigation revealed for the first time a staggering surveillance of journalists and human rights defenders. At least 180 journalists around the world have been selected as targets. 40 among them are journalists from India. Besides these 40 journalists, the malware also looked into over 300 phone numbers of ministers, opposition leaders, members of the legal community, business officials, scientists and others in the country.
PCI in its statement said, this is for “the first time in the history of this country that all pillars of our democracy — judiciary, Parliamentarians, media, executives & ministers — have been spied upon. This is unprecedented and the PCI condemns unequivocally.” The snoop has done for “ulterior motive,” the statement said.
DIGIPUB, the organisation of digital-only news publications, also condemned it and said, “This is a serious breach of law and of the privacy of mediapersons, in a democratic country no less, which can debilitate dissent in general and journalism in particular.”
Meanwhile, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart has called on governments and companies to take steps to hold the Israeli technology firm accountable, reports The Hindu. In 2019, Whatsapp had sued NSO group accusing it of using its messaging service to conduct cyber espionage.
In another tweet, Cathcart said, “NSO’s dangerous spyware is used to commit horrible human rights abuses all around the world and it must be stopped.”
In the wake of this groundbreaking revelation, Edward Snowden also tweeted:
In an interview to The Guardian Snowden said,