Top Indian Journos Approach Supreme Court for 'Independent Inquiry' Into Pegasus Spyware Row
Last week, a Forensic Methodology Report by the UK-based humans right group Amnesty International claimed that Pegasus spyware has been used in a widespread and persistent manner. It said it was done to unlawfully spy on over 50,000 influential people, including over 300 from India. The targeted persons included journalists and politicians.
Senior journalists approached the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday, demanding an independent investigation into the Israeli spyware Pegasus, which was allegedly used to target news editors and reporters in the country.
N. Ram and Sashi Kumar -- two of India's top news reporters - have been named as petitioners in the case by the Indian legal news site LiveLaw.in.
Senior journalist Ram is the former Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Indian daily "The Hindu", and Kumar is the founder of satellite news channel Asianet. The two are also being backed by other senior Indian journalists, media reports said.
Both journalists have further urged the supreme court to direct the Union of India to disclose if the government or any of its agencies had obtained licenses for Pegasus spyware. They also want to know if the military-grade spyware system was used to conduct surveillance on Indians, as claimed by Amnesty International as well as the Indian publication The Wire.
The Supreme Court's response to this petition remains unknown as of press time.
On 18 July, The Wire named 40 Indian journalists who were Pegasus targets, as per the forensics report. Journalists and senior staffers at top Indian news agencies including Hindustan Times, Network18, The Hindu and Indian Express, were listed among others.
Opposition parties including the Congress party, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as well as the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party have called for a parliamentary intervention to probe if Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government was snooping on Indian journalists and activists to silence dissent. The government has denied the accusations.
Pegasus' developer, the Israeli company NSO Group, has previously said that it sells the spyware to governments mainly to help security agencies keep track of unlawful or terrorist activities.