French journalist claims ‘asked to leave India’, forbidden from covering general elections | Latest News India

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By Mahtab Ahmad

French journalist Sébastien Farcis on Thursday claimed that he was “forced to leave” India and forbidden from covering the 2024 general elections after the Union ministry of home affairs refused to renew his permit, the second such claim in four months by a journalist from France.

The ministry of home affairs in New Delhi. (HT File Photo)
The ministry of home affairs in New Delhi. (HT File Photo)

“On 17th June, I was forced to leave India, a country where I had lived and worked as a journalist for 13 years, as a South Asia correspondent for Radio France Internationale, Radio France, Libération and the Swiss and Belgian public radios,” Farcis said in a post on X on Thursday.

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Farcis said that on March 7, the MHA refused to renew his journalist permit and informed him about the rejection to cover the general elections.

“This appeared to me as an incomprehensible censorship,” he wrote, stating that he had been working in India as a journalist since 2011 and had obtained all the necessary visas and accreditations. “I have…never worked in restricted or protected areas without a permit. On several occasions, the MHA even granted me permits to report from border areas,” he wrote.

This move, he claims, has an impact on his family as well because he is married to an Indian woman and thus has Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status.

“This denial comes as a worrying context of increasing restrictions on the work of foreign journalists: after Vanessa Dougnac, I am the second French journalist in four months having to leave India under these conditions. At least five OCI foreign correspondents have been banned from working as journalists in less than two years,” Farcis wrote.

HT has reached out to Farcis and the MHA for a response.

Dougnac was reportedly asked to leave India on February 16 after 23 years of working in the country as a journalist. She too was married to a man from India (Haryana) and has a son, according to a report by the Outlook. In January, she reportedly received a notice from the MHA accusing her of writing articles that were “malicious”, and harming “the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India”. The notice, she reportedly said, required her to respond as to why her OCI card should not be cancelled.

In April, Australian journalist Avani Dias, who worked in India as the South Asia bureau chief for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), claimed that she was forced to leave the country as the government told her an extension of her visa would be denied as her reporting “crossed a line”, and that she would not be allowed to cover the general elections.

However, a government official later rebuffed her version of the events. Eventually, Dias tweeted that she had got a two-month extension after the Australian government intervened, but she was still not permitted to cover the Indian elections.

The NDA government cancelled at least 102 OCI cards between 2014 and May 2023, digital publication Article14 reported in February, citing Right to Information responses.

OCI, a status created in 2005 under the Citizenship Act, 1955, allows foreign citizens of Indian origin or foreigners married to Indian citizens, to enter India without a visa. It also allows them to reside, work and own property.

In 2019, journalist and British citizen Aatish Taseer lost his OCI status after his profile of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the headline ‘India’s divider in chief’, was published in TIME magazine. At that time, the MHA had said in a statement that Taseer suppressed information that his late father was of Pakistani origin.

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