Press Statement

India: French journalist threatened with expulsion over “malicious” reporting

24 Jan, 2024

[UPDATED 21.02.2024] The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Indian government issued a notice to French journalist Vanessa Dougnac cancelling her Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, citing “malicious” and “biassed” reporting. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) in calling on the government to reconsider its decision and to stop threatening and prosecuting journalists.

According to Indian media, the government has opened a legal process against Dougnac and has given her a 15-day deadline, ending on 2 February, to make the case for her residence permit not to be cancelled. The Ministry of Home Affairs accuses her of “malicious” reporting and being “critical in a manner that created a biassed negative perception of the country”.

The journalist, who works as a correspondent for French newspapers ‘La Croix’ and ‘Le Point’ and has lived in India for more than twenty years She acknowledged reception of the notice and denied all allegations and imputations. It is the first time that India has threatened to expel a French journalist, French media reported.

The latest case of breaching journalists’ rights by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government coincides with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, who is due to land in India on 25 January to attend the Republic Day celebrations.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, media freedom has deteriorated in the country and the government has openly targeted and harassed journalists it deems too critical, arresting reporters for covering protests and shutting down independent media outlets. On 15 August, the IFJ, together with its affiliate IJU, urged Indian authorities to review legislation passed by the Parliament that posed a great threat to press freedom.

In a statement, the IJU urged the government to ensure justice and fair play and not indulge in strong accusations listed in the notice such as “malicious” reporting that creates a “negative perception” of India, inciting disorder, not taking permission for travelling to restricted areas and doing reporting on neighbouring countries. “These smack of an act of vindictiveness, harassment and intimidation of the journalist and attack on press freedom”. 

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “President Macron should call out the governments’ crackdown on journalists and media in India, and bring up the case of our colleague Vanessa Dougnac, in his talks with Prime Minister Modi. At a time when India’s prime minister is describing his country as the “world’s largest democracy” he should be mindful that threatening and prosecuting journalists for simply doing their job are the actions of an authoritarian regime.”

UPDATE 21.02.2024 Indian authorities revoked permit and compelled correspondent Vanessa Dougnac to leave the country on 16 February after 23 years of reporting.

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

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