New Delhi, Jul 21 (PTI) The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Wednesday demanded "an urgent and independent" inquiry into the alleged use of the Pegasus spyware to snoop on politicians, activists, journalists and others in the country.

In a statement, it said the inquiry should be conducted under the aegis of the Supreme Court and the inquiry team should comprise people of "impeccable credibility" from different walks of life, including journalists and civil society members.

"The Editors Guild of India is shocked by the media reports on the widespread surveillance allegedly mounted by government agencies on journalists, civil society activists, businessmen and politicians, using a hacking software known as Pegasus, created and developed by the Israeli company NSO," it said.

Since NSO claims that it only sells the software to clients vetted by the government of Israel, it deepens the suspicion of involvement of Indian government agencies in snooping "on its own citizens", the guild said.

"The guild demands an urgent and independent inquiry into these snooping charges, under the aegis of the Supreme Court of India.

"We also demand that this inquiry committee should include people of impeccable credibility from different walks of life, including journalists and civil society, so that it can independently investigate the facts around the extent and intent of snooping using the services of Pegasus," it added.

The EGI said while some of the instances of the alleged surveillance might have been targeted against those "who may be seen as credible national security threat", what is disturbing is that a large number of such targets were journalists and civil society members.

"This is a brazen and unconstitutional attack on the freedom of speech and the press," the editors' body said, adding that "this act of snooping essentially conveys that journalism and political dissent are now equated with terror".

"How can a constitutional democracy survive if governments do not make an effort to protect freedom of speech and allow surveillance with such impunity?" it asked.

This is a moment that demands deep introspection and inquiry "into the kind of society we are heading towards, and how far we may have veered away from the democratic values enshrined in our Constitution", the guild said.

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