Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two other journalists had filed a complaint with prosecutors in France against NSO Group over the Pegasus scandal and all others the investigation would identify. Now, it has been joined by 17 other journalists from 7 others countries, including India. The RSF has forwarded the matter to the UN as well.
The RSF said in a statement, “Seventeen journalists from seven countries who were listed as potential or actual victims of Pegasus spyware have filed complaints with prosecutors in Paris, against NSO Group and all other persons the investigation will identify. Their complaints complement the one Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two journalists with French and Moroccan dual nationality already filed on 20 July. RSF has also referred their cases to the United Nations.”
RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével said, “The complaints filed by these journalists, who are from every continent, confirm the scale of the surveillance carried out with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.” “The investigation should identify all those involved, whether company executives or senior government officials in the countries concerned. In the face of a scandal so fraught with consequences for press freedom, no doubts must remain. The veil must be lifted completely and justice must be done,” the spokesperson added.
The five journalists from India are Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire, MK Venu, Sushant Singh, Swati Chaturvedi and RSF’s India correspondent Shubhranshu Choudhary. The statement does not itself provide any clarity with regards to the evidence on the basis of which they have identified potential targets.
The ‘list of targets’ on the basis of which ‘potential targets’ were identified has turned out to a quite a thorn on the side of the activists against Pegasus. NSO Group had instantly denied that the ‘list’ had anything to do with them and Amnesty, one of the organisations that had fed media houses the list, had itself said that the list was not associated with NSO. Therefore, the basis on which extravagant claims of ‘potential targets’ are being made is not as a strong as made out to be.
RSF demands a “strict international regulation of the exportation, sale and use of spyware such as Pegasus and, in the meantime, an international moratorium on the sale of such software. And, finally, RSF is asking them to press the UN Human Rights Council to adopt an ad hoc mechanism to investigate and shed all possible light on the sale and use of spyware.”
RSF is funded by US Government and other European states
The RSF is heavily funded by western government institutions and government-backed organisations. It is supported by the French Development Agency (AFD), European Commission’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), French city of Bayeux, French foreign ministry, French defence ministry, French interior ministry, French culture ministry, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) among others.
One of the other important supporters of RSF is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded by the US Government. Its website states, “Funded largely by the U.S. Congress, the support NED gives to groups abroad sends an important message of solidarity to many democrats who are working for freedom and human rights, often in obscurity and isolation.”
It states further, “Created jointly by Republicans and Democrats, NED is governed by a board balanced between both parties and enjoys Congressional support across the political spectrum. NED operates with a high degree of transparency and accountability reflecting our founders’ belief that democracy promotion overseas should be conducted openly.”
The RSF is also supported by the Ford Foundation, which has a history of financing anti-social elements in India. A report on The Grayzone observed, “Reporters Without Borders has for years also been criticized for its bias against governments that are targeted by the US and Europe for regime change. RSF has shown a particularly extreme prejudice against Venezuela, portraying oligarch-owned right-wing media outlets and US-funded opposition groups that have actively participated in numerous violent coup attempts against the democratically elected socialist government as hapless victims of an autocratic regime.”
Rituparna Chatterjee, a left-wing activist who headed the ‘Me Too’ campaign in India, is an RSF correspondent in the country as well. As a feminist activist, she appears to have dedicated her time disproportionately towards calling women ‘menstruators‘ instead of making actual efforts to help women.
Siddharth Varadarajan and SAMDEN
Siddharth Varadarajan, founding-editor of The Wire, is an American. Moreover, he is a core member of South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN), which is a part of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
CHRI receives funds from the US State Department (American Embassy), the British High Commission in New Delhi, the High Commission of Canada among others. The purpose for the contributions from the US was “Advocacy and Outreach Programme for Detainees in North Eastern States of India”, for the UK it was “Research on Pace of Justice issues in India and their impact on Foreign National detainees and victims of crime” and the Canadian contribution was for “Reimbursement of Expenditure”.
Retired Justice Madan Lokur, a senior member of CHRI, was recently appointed by the West Bengal Government under Mamata Banerjee to head an investigation into Pegasus.