Pegasus a wake up call for journalists, says Pulitzer finalist

A major shift is going on in journalism right now when technology, which was being seen an enabler, was being turned against journalists, said Bradley Hope, veteran investigative reporter and Pulitzer finalist. There is now a need for journalists to retrench from technology but still be available for sources and whistleblowers to reach them, added Mr Hope, whose phone was on the Pegasus spyware list.

Speaking at a virtual session on “Journalism in the Age of Surveillance” at the Asian College of Journalism on Friday, Mr. Hope said the Pegasus spyware issue showed widespread abuse of the system. “Once a country buys access to it [Pegasus], it can do anything with the spyware. Pegasus showed widespread abuse of the system. The company doesn’t monitor the use of it,” he said.

Mr. Hope said even though an individual practised the best computer security practices, their phones were vulnerable to the spyware. “It is a pertinent wake up call for journalism because never before have we been so vulnerable. The way this technology has become a powerful tool, you are leaving all the trails that you are trying to lose,” he said.

With people using their phones for everything, it was easier than ever before to access all of their information. “It’s a simple temptation for governments, people in charge to use these spyware to surveil on their enemies, political opponents, people, journalists any one at all,” the journalist said.

Mr. Hope said journalists in India and many other countries had to deal with these challenges of security as they don’t enjoy the same level of protection unlike in the U.K where he is based.

“It is an important moment in journalism for journalists to retrench from technology. Sometimes we need to leave our phone behind [while meeting sources]. I have started to look at my phone as a risk that I carry around all the time”. Explaining about the time he spent in the Middle East, he said many times, his sources would ask him to leave his phone elsewhere as they expected their phones to be a source of trouble.

He also said media organisations must also look at the ways of protecting their journalists. “It is critical how organisations buy their…