Addressing the ongoing Pegasus spyware roar and allegations of tapping devices of prominent journalists, the IT Minister of India, Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the reports suggesting the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp were baseless and not factual. The clarification was made by the IT minister on Monday during the first day of parliament’s monsoon session.
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Explaining that similar allegations were made on Indian government in the past as well, Vaishnaw said, “Similar claims were made regarding use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were denied by all parties.”
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He further added that several press reports published on Sunday appeared to be an attempt to impune the image of a well-established institution of Indian democracy, the largest in the world.
The IT minister also said that this attempt to propagate such stories just a day before the parliamentary session is not a coincidence.
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“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations were made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” Vaishnaw said during his parliamentary speech.
Vaishnaw also added that it is impossible to attain illegal surveillance within a robust system like ours.
“Requests for lawful interceptions of electronic communication are made as per relevant rules under provisions of Sec 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 & Sec 69 of Information Technology Act 2000. Each case of interception is approved by the competent authority,” said Ashwini Vaishnaw
On Sunday evening, the Centre had issued an official statement categorically denying the allegations saying “the commitment to free speech as a fundamental right is the cornerstone of India’s democratic system. We have always strived to attain an informed citizenry with an emphasis on a culture of open dialogue.
The government went on to say that “there has been no unauthorised interception by Government agencies.”
Here is the full statement released by the government.
For the unversed, a report was published by many prominent news websites, including the Guardian and the Washington Post on Sunday. The report suggested that several journalists including 40 Indian news personalities were made the target of an attempted hack. The reports say that over 10 governments, including India’s, were involved in surveillance of people using Pegasus spyware.
Pegasus spyware, considered one of the most powerful and sophisticated spyware to be around as it can infiltrate iOS, Apple’s mobile phone operating system, and Android devices, is said to had developed to help government agencies prevent and investigate terrorism and crime to save thousands of lives around the globe.
However, its misuse by several government agencies across the world have been reported to curb freedom of speech in the states.