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Australian Journalist Says She Had No Selection However to Depart India

A senior journalist with Australia’s nationwide broadcaster says she was successfully pushed out of India after her reporting on Sikh separatism angered the Indian authorities, accusing the authorities of hindering her from going to occasions, searching for to have her reporting taken down and refusing for weeks to resume her visa.

Avani Dias, the South Asia correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Company, stated on social media that Indian officers instructed her final month that her software for a resident journalist visa extension wouldn’t be accepted as a result of a tv section she had produced on accusations that India was chargeable for the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada had “crossed the road.”

She was finally granted a short lived visa extension on the final minute after lobbying by the Australian authorities, lower than a day earlier than she was scheduled to go away the nation, Ms. Dias stated in her podcast, “In search of Modi.” However she stated that she in the end determined to go away as a result of “it felt too troublesome to do my job in India.”

“I used to be struggling to get into public occasions run by Modi’s occasion,” Ms. Dias stated on the podcast, which was about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian authorities has disputed Ms. Dias’ account and stated she was assured by excessive rating officers that her visa can be renewed.

Her departure got here amid a broader crackdown on free speech within the nation and raids on journalists reporting on delicate subjects. Throughout his 10 years main the nation, Mr. Modi has consolidated energy in India and throughout its establishments, difficult the founding rules of recent India, like secularism and freedom of the press. He’s searching for a 3rd time period in parliamentary elections that begun this month.

In March, Ms. Dias produced a tv section concerning the accusations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada final 12 months that brokers performing on behalf of the Indian authorities have been behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist, on Canadian soil. The half-hour documentary examined the motion, which advocates for a separate Sikh state known as Khalistan to be carved out of the Indian state of Punjab.

Throughout the half-hour documentary, which was broadcast in Australia and uploaded on social media, she detailed how permission for her and her crew to movie on the border between Punjab and Pakistan had all of the sudden been revoked by Indian officers with out rationalization, and the way she had been quizzed by Indian officers about her crew and the locations she had visited to report on the story.

“It’s clear that we’re being actually monitored and that there’s concern concerning the story that we’re doing,” she stated.

On March 26, lower than per week after the documentary was broadcast, the Indian authorities efficiently sought to have YouTube block the video from exhibiting in India.

The subsequent day, Ms. Dias was instructed by a consultant of the Ministry of Exterior Affairs that her software for a visa extension wouldn’t be renewed, in line with an individual immediately aware of the scenario however who spoke on situation of anonymity due to the delicate nature of the problem. Ms. Dias notified the Australian authorities, and Australian diplomats started to foyer for her visa, the individual stated.

After weeks of bureaucratic backwards and forwards, Ms. Dias obtained her visa extension on the night of Apr. 18, the individual stated. However along with her flight again to Australia departing the subsequent day, and having already packed up her life in India, she made the choice to go away, Ms. Dias stated in her podcast. She left on the primary day of voting in India’s nationwide election.

A senior Indian official, talking on situation of anonymity, refuted her account, saying Ms. Dias had been instructed nicely upfront that her visa can be prolonged.

The official stated that Ms. Dias had violated phrases of her earlier visa by making an attempt to movie on the India-Pakistan border, which requires permission. Ms. Dias beforehand stated she had sought and been granted that permission earlier than it was revoked on the final minute.

Ms. Dias had not been prevented from overlaying India’s election, however had her accreditation delayed as a result of she had not but obtained her visa extension, the Indian official stated, including that her colleagues on the Australian Broadcasting Company had been given accreditation to cowl the elections.

Ms. Dias’ departure provides to mounting considerations about press freedom in India, the place Indian journalists have come beneath heavy stress from the Modi administration.

International journalists in India are reporting extra stress, as nicely. In February, Vanessa Dougnac, a French freelance correspondent, stated she had been pressured to go away India, the place she had lived for 25 years, after the authorities instructed her that they meant to withdraw her everlasting residency allow.

The authorities accused her of manufacturing reporting that was “malicious and demanding in method,” and making a “biased adverse notion about India.” They stated that she had labored as a journalist with out holding a legitimate allow, after revoking her work allow in September 2022 with out a clear motive.

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