GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 5, 2022 - Source, Demerara Waves - President Irfaan Ali on Tuesday promised that his government would not be using spyware to go after journalists and their sources, in response to a call by the Guyana Press Association (GPA) for an assurance that government would not engage in such intrusions.
“This government has no intention whatsoever; it is not even contemplated in my mind to move in any direction to have any spyware or anything to spy on anyone. That is furthest from my thought. I have not even imagined something like that so take it out, take it out from your imagination now. It will never happen at least under this government,” he told a Guyana-government 0rganised two-day forum to mark World Press Freedom Day, held under the theme “Journalism Under Digital Siege.”
The Guyana president was responding to a call by the president of the Guyana Press Association Nazima Raghubir that Dr. Ali and his administration to assure journalists and media houses that it will not utilise spyware such as Pegasus. “Given the fact that the President will be speaking after me, it will be important for us to hear directly whether the government is in possession of any spyware and plans to acquire and use it especially on journalists,” the press association president lamented.
“This government has no intention whatsoever; it has not even contemplated my mind to move in any direction to have any spyware. I have not even imagined something like that, it will never happen, at least under this government,” Ali said.
He also remarked that wherever spyware is being used against journalists, it “should be rooted out because no government should by spying on their population not in the democratic construct of a free society.”
Dating back to colonial times, the Guyana Police Force has a Special Branch department that monitors and infiltrates political parties, the media, trade unions and other non-governmental organisations. The Guyana Defence Force’s intelligence department also performs similar functions. The Interception of Communication Act, which was approved in 2008, authorises the State to eavesdrop on suspects through a court order, and since then a sophisticated system has been constructed in the Castellani House compound to perform that function as part of a national intelligence network.
In Trinidad and Tobago, under pressure from the opposition United National Congress (UNC), the State security has admitted to being in possession of components of spyware but has said they have not been used. Both police and the government had denied that they are in possession of the Pegasus spyware that can reportedly intercept calls and messages from platforms such as WhatsApp.
“I reject the false narratives that, the state is using Pegasus, that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is conducting interception of communications outside of the suite provided and controlled by the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago, and that there are any individuals being targeted by law enforcement for intercept who are not under suspicion of being involved in serious criminal activity,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in a lengthy statement to Parliament.
He told legislators that the ill effects of these false narratives about interception should not be underestimated and are very irresponsible as they “undermine the fight against crime and the trust that we should repose in those charged with the responsibility of the state’s legal intercept resources.”
I have provided this information and the assurances given as the chairman of the National Security Council and the prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as I lead a government that respects the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, speaking at a Monday night forum of her main opposition United National Congress (UNC), told supporters that she had been provided with the information by a whistleblower and that the “spying” is being done with the help of specially selected police officers, aligned to the government, to help Prime Minister Rowley “cling to power”.