Ranjona Banerji: Distract & Rule

27 Jul,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


The desperation of parts of the media to shift focus away from the revelations of the Pegasus Project is hardly surprising, although it remains despicable. Rahul Gandhi and his mango preferences, pornography charges against a celebrity husband, infighting within the Punjab Congress, have all been pulled out above the Modi government’s illegal surveillance. One can understand the government wanting to distract attention. But the remarkable ease with which they get sections of the media, especially the television media, to comply does not cease to amaze. I don’t know why I’m amazed, actually. Eight years of TV nonsense and I should be used to them. Some wild hope remains apparently.


However, the threat to journalists in India has not gone anywhere, apart from the threats to everyone else who have been spied on and perhaps even infected with malware by someone within the Modi government. But to look for solidarity even in such wild times is useless.


Some people do take Pegasus spyware seriously and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued the following advisory for journalists on the list of proven and potential victims:



Swati Chaturvedi, one of the journalists who was targeted by the Pegasus spyware by her own government, writes about the experience for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:


“The spyware called Pegasus is marketed for use against terrorists and drug lords. It is so powerful and intrusive that it is sold only to governments, according to NSO, and every sale requires a sign off from the government of Israel itself. And according to Forbidden Stories, the not-for-profit media organization that, in partnership with a consortium of global publications, broke the story about the reach and misuse of the spyware, once the spyware was deployed our phones were, in effect, weaponized against us.”



There is some activity within the community on this front though. N Ram of The Hindu and Shashi Kumar of the Asian College of Journalism have filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for a court-ordered investigation into the allegations.



The legal position has been under discussion so far and as ever, ML Sharma rushed with a petition under the very real fear that this over-active lawyer would derail all effective investigation.


Ram and Kumar say in their petition: “Such mass surveillance using a military-grade spyware abridges several fundamental rights and appears to represent an attempt to infiltrate, attack and destabilise independent institutions that act as critical pillars of our democratic set-up. It is also concerning to note that the Respondents [the Union government] have not categorically ruled out obtaining Pegasus licences to conduct surveillance in their response, and have taken no steps to ensure a credible and independent investigation into these extremely serious allegations”.


This is very important. Other People and nations affected and accused around the world have reacted officially and legally. The Modi government has relied on obfuscatory comments and a pliant media to tamp down and hope the matter goes away.




While sections of the media will continue with mangoes and politicians, may I remind you that India’s vaccination situation remains problematic and far behind schedule?




How would it be if the television media really and consistently took the Modi government to task over this?


Ha ha ha, I like a good joke. Even my own!


Enjoy the Olympics. It’s a better diversion than the Indian media.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal


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