On April 18, celebrity journalist Ronan Farrow tweeted that he’d “spent two years digging” into the inside story of Pegasus, the spyware whose use by democratic governments around the world – including that of India – to spy on members of civil society, their political opponents and their dissenters was reported by an international collaboration that included The Wire. Yet Farrow credits only “Pegasus Project” in his story, once, and even then only to say that their reporting “reinforced the links between NSO Group and anti-democratic states” – mentioning nothing of what many of the journalists uncovered, probably to avoid admitting that his own piece overlaps significantly with the Project’s pieces – even as his own piece is cast as a revelatory investigation. Tell me, Mr Farrow, when you dug and dug, did you literally go underground? Or is this another form of your tendency to keep half the spotlight on yourself when your stories are published?
This is the second instance just this week of an influential American publication re-reporting something one or some other outlets in the “Orient” already published, in both cases a substantial amount of time earlier, while making no mention that they’re simply following up. But worse, the New York Times, the second offender, whose Stephanie Nolen and Karan Deep Singh reported on Amruta Byatnal’s report in Devex after two weeks and based on the same sources, wrote the story like it was breaking news. (The story: India wanted the WHO to delay the release of a report by 10 years because it said India had at least four-times as many deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic as its official record claimed.)
To make matters worse, India’s Union health ministry (in a government in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls all the shots) responded to the New York Times story but not to Devex (nor to The Wire Science‘s re-reporting, based on comments from other sources and with credit to Byatnal and Devex). This BJP government and its ministers like to claim that they’re better than the West on one occasion and that India needs to overcome its awe of the West on another, yet when Western publications (re)report developments discovered by journalists working through the minefield that is India’s landscape of stories, the ministers turn into meerkats.
For the journalists in between who first broke the stories, it’s a double whammy: American outlets that will brazenly steal their ideas and obfuscate memories of their initiative and the Indian government that will treat them as if they don’t exist.