Amid the Union government's repeated denials for the Pegasus project by calling it an attempt to malign Indian democracy, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that the spying on journalists, human rights defenders, and politicians is 'extremely alarming'. The rights chief had urged the governments to cease their own use of surveillance technologies.
The statement from the Human Rights Chief has come on Monday, a day after the entire globe was shocked to hit by the grim revelation that the Pegasus spyware, which was only sold to the governments, had targeted and spied on thousands of phone numbers belong to the journalists, activists, human rights defenders, political leaders, ministers, and even the circles of the judiciary. Pegasus, developed by an Israeli-based NSO Group, has stirred a global concern and debate over the illicit use of the spyware by the regimes.
As the call for overhaul the surveillance streams and adopt a stringent measure to tackle such government-sponsored cybercrimes, the global human rights body had castigated the spying on journalists, human rights defenders, and politicians and called it as 'extremely alarming'. In a statement, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the governments to cease their own use of surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, and should take concrete actions to protect against such invasions of privacy by regulating the distribution, use, and export of surveillance technology created by others.
Bachelet said, "Revelations regarding the apparent widespread use of the Pegasus software to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians, and others in a variety of countries are extremely alarming, and seem to confirm some of the worst fears about the potential misuse of surveillance technology to illegally undermine people's human rights." "Use of surveillance software has been linked to arrest, intimidation, and even killings of journalists and human rights defenders. Reports of surveillance also have the invidious effect of making people censor themselves through fear", she added.
She said that journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in societies and cited that everyone will suffer when the journalists are silenced. She stated, "I would like to remind all states that surveillance measures can only be justified in narrowly defined circumstances, with a legitimate goal. And they must be both necessary and proportionate to that goal." Responding to the reports of spying by the Pegasus spyware, Bachelet added, "If the recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, then that red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity."
She has noted that the companies that are involved in the development and distribution of surveillance technologies are responsible for not harming human rights and they must initiate necessary steps to subdue and fix the harms their products are causing or contributing to. She had highlighted that these reports also confirm the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology and ensure strict oversight and authorization.
She added that these tools will be abused to threaten the critics and silence the dissidents if there are no proper regulatory frameworks. She further said, "Governments should immediately cease their own use of surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, and should take concrete actions to protect against such invasions of privacy by regulating the distribution, use, and export of surveillance technology created by others."