New Delhi: Phones of two serving union ministers, three opposition leaders, one constitutional authority, current and former heads of security organisations, administrators and 40 senior journalists and activists from India were allegedly bugged using the Israel spy software Pegasus and put on surveillance, according to a expose by a global consortium of media publications.
The first reports published late Sunday only released names of journalists allegedly targeted in India. The list includes former The Indian Express journalist Sushant Singh, Hindustan Times group executive editor Shishir Gupta, its former bureau chief Prashant Jha, defence correspondent Rahul Singh and a reporter in HT’s sister paper, Mint. Other journalists include, Ritika Chopra (who covers education and the Election Commission) and Muzammil Jameel (who writes on Kashmir) of the Indian Express, Sandeep Unnithan (who covers defence and the Indian military) of India Today, Manoj Gupta (editor investigations and security affairs) at TV18, and Vijaita Singh, who covers the home ministry at The Hindu.
TheWire founder-editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Venu are also on the list.
According to the reports, a leaked database of thousands of telephone numbers believed to have been listed by multiple government clients of an Israeli surveillance technology firm includes over 300 verified Indian mobile telephone numbers, including those used by ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, rights activists and others.
The leaked database was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with The Wire, Le Monde, The Guardian, Washington Post Die Zeit, Suddeutsche Zeitung and 10 other Mexican, Arab and European news organisations as part of a collaborative investigation called the ‘Pegasus Project’.
A majority of the numbers identified in the list were geographically concentrated in 10 country clusters: India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the reports say.