Espionage can have a chilling effect on press freedom: SC | India News


NEW DELHI: Allowing pleas filed by activists and journalists, who, along with others, had called for an investigation into their alleged Pegasus spyware espionage, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday that putting citizens under surveillance could have a “Deterrent effect”, in particular on press freedom and constitutes an “attack” on its vital role as a “watchdog”.
“There is no denying that surveillance and knowing that one is under threat of being spied on can affect how an individual decides to exercise their rights. Such a scenario could lead to self-censorship. This is of particular concern when it comes to press freedom, which is an important pillar of democracy.
“Such a chilling effect on freedom of expression is an attack on the vital public oversight role of the press, which can undermine the press’s ability to provide accurate and reliable information,” the Supreme Court said.

Accepting the pleas of the petitioners, some of whom claimed to be victims of espionage, the Supreme Court said it was very important for journalists to be able to protect their sources of information. “The protection of journalistic sources is one of the fundamental conditions for press freedom. Without such protection, sources could be dissuaded from helping the press inform the public on matters of public interest, ”the court said.
“In view of the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom in a democratic society and the potential deterrent effect that espionage techniques can have, the task of this tribunal in the present case, where some serious allegations of violation of the rights of citizens of the country have been raised, of great importance.
“From this perspective, this tribunal is obliged to seize the case to determine the truth and to get to the bottom of the allegations made here”, declared the tribunal. The Supreme Court said that although declared inalienable, the right to privacy of course cannot be considered an absolute, as the Indian Constitution does not provide for such a right without reasonable restrictions. “As with all other fundamental rights, this court must therefore recognize that certain limitations also exist with regard to the right to privacy. However, any restrictions imposed must necessarily pass a constitutional review, ”he said.

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