The Press Club of India (PCI), Editors Guild of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalist Union, and various media organizations met at the Press Club of India in New Delhi to strongly condemn the surveillance mounted on Indian journalists, activists, ministers, parliamentarians and members of the judiciary.
The media organizations in a statement issued said that they believe such acts of snooping on citizens undermine the democracy of any country. It is, therefore, incumbent on the government to put an end to the obfuscation of details and to come clean on the use of Pegasus spyware. The PCI demanded a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into the acts of surveillance. It said the media organizations will explore constitutional options for the safeguard of democracy and freedom of the press.
Senior journalist and Founding Editor of The Wire M K Venu said he does not like the word ‘victim’ used for him when his phone was found on the list of journalists snooped upon. He said he would rather look at it positively and said that if the government felt threatened by his work that should be a compliment for him. He added that the Modi government has said they did not snoop on journalists while his and co-founder of The Wire Siddharth Varadrajan’s phones’ forensics have clearly shown that their phones had Pegasus, the surveillance spyware. He said at least former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was honest in accepting that she imposed an emergency.
Senior journalist and former editor of Hindi daily Hindustan and former chairperson of Prasar Bharti Mrinal Pande said there is a difference between surveillance and spying. This has never happened in the country. What is a government going to earn by leveling sedition charges on a 75-year-old like me? She said she completely endorsed what M K Venu said.
Senior Journalist, economist, and writer Prem Shankar Jha also said the purpose of surveillance is to crush the dissent. The Modi-led government is confused as to how to deal with these very vocal fearless journalists and so they either keep spying or charging journalists with sedition. Referring to Bhima Koregoan incident and the subsequent arrests, he alleged that we all know how evidence was planted on people’s laptops and then they were arrested on the charges of sedition.
Several other senior journalists attended the event and expressed their protest against the surveillance and phones being hacked by Pegasus spyware.
The event at the Press Club of India was conducted by Press Club of India President Umakant Lakhera and secretary Vinay Kumar proposed the vote of thanks.