Pegasus spyware row: Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta to join RSF in taking legal action against those responsible for mass surveillance
Pegasus spyware row: Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta to join RSF in taking legal action against those responsible for mass surveillance

New Delhi: Veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who is among the 40 Indian journalists whose phone number was on the Pegasus surveillance list, has expressed interest in being part of a global initiative by the Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) for legal action.

The RSF (Reporters Without Borders), headquartered in Paris, has announced its intention to bring legal action against those responsible for this mass surveillance.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said, “In 2020, we branded NSO Group as a ‘digital predator’ and contributed to WhatsApp’s lawsuit against the Israeli company in the United States. We will do everything to ensure that the NSO Group is punished for the crimes it has committed and the tragedies it has made possible. The revelations about the use of the Pegasus spyware inspire shock and revulsion, given the extent of the surveillance and targeting of journalists. No, the NSO Group does not contribute to ‘global security and stability,’ contrary to what the company claims. Pegasus is a vile and loathsome tool, invented by digital mercenaries and prized by ‘press freedom predators’ for use in persecuting journalists.”

Deloire added, "The revelations about the Pegasus software call for change. We urge democratic governments to place an immediate moratorium on the sale of surveillance technology until safeguards have been established to prevent its oppressive use. RSF began sounding the alarm about this spyware in 2017, notably after it was used to spy on Mexican journalists. We subsequently denounced its use against journalists in Saudi Arabia, India, Morocco and Azerbaijan.

Speaking to FPJ, Delhi-based journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said that he has tweeted his mail ID to Reporters Sans Frontiers, which had called on all those who whose phones had been infiltrated.“ They are the ones who said that all those phones, which have been snooped into or hacked, they want to initiate legal action internationally. Please get in touch with us. I sent my mail ID saying that I am one of the persons whose phone has been hacked and I am willing to be part of this initiative.’’

Paranjoy, who was approached In March about his phone having been compromised by a representative of Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit entity, said, “ It is a big mystery if the government is not saying whether one of its agencies or one of its departments -- we don’t know which one -- has purchased Pegasus software from this Israeli company NSO. They have never denied that they have not purchased Pegasus software. They are neither confirming nor denying it. Secondly, if they have purchased this software, they have spent, according to estimates, millions of US dollars which is a lot of money. If this money has been spent, it is tax payer’s money. It belongs to the people of this country. If they are using the taxpayer’s money to snoop on people of this country including political opponents and journalists, don’t we deserve to know? Who has spent the money and how much has been spent?’’

The senior journalist said that there are 17 media organisations besides Forbidden Stories that were involved in this global investigation and the governments wants to have us believe that this is an international conspiracy. “The government says that it has done nothing in an unauthorized manner. If they have done nothing in an unauthorized manner, have they done something in an authorized manner? The question therefore arises who did they get the authorization from? To tap a person’s phone, including mine, you need prior approval of the Home Secretary. As a citizen, when my phone has been infiltrated or compromised, don’t I have the right to ask, not only as a journalist but as a citizen of this country, who authorized them? If you have got the authorization, please tell me. Have they got the authorization to hack phones for all the 40 journalists? These are my simple questions.’’

Free Press Journal