The Hindu

‘Pegasus a wake-up call for scribes’

Reporters need to retrench from technology, suggests Pulitzer finalist

- Special Correspond­ent

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.

Tech as temptation

“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”.

He also said media organisati­ons must also look at the ways of protecting their journalist­s. “It is critical how organisati­ons buy their equipment. Sometimes [provide] two simple non-smart phones. Newsrooms too must think about what technology kits they are building around certain investigat­ions,” he said.

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