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Australian journalist says she was kicked out of India

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A senior ABC reporter says her reporting on Sikh separatism so angered the Indian government that she was effectively kicked out of the country, accusing authorities of blocking her from attending events, trying to have her reports taken down and Declined to renew within weeks. her visa.

Avani Dias, ABC South Asia correspondent social media Indian officials told her last month that her application to extend her resident journalist visa would not be approved because a television program she produced that accused India of responsibility for the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada had “crossed a line.”

Ms Dias told the podcast that after lobbying from the Australian government, she was eventually granted a last-minute temporary visa extension, less than a day before she planned to leave the country.Looking for Modi”. But she said she ultimately decided to leave because “it felt like it was too difficult to do work in India.”

“It’s difficult for me to attend public events hosted by Modi’s party,” Ms. Dias said on the podcast.

The Indian government disputed Ms. Dias’s account and said senior officials assured her that her visa would be renewed.

Her departure comes amid a wider crackdown on free speech in the country and raids on journalists covering sensitive topics.

In March, Ms. Dias produced a television program about allegations made last year by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that agents acting on behalf of the Indian government killed Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh in Canada. · Hardeep Singh Nijjar.this half hour documentary Study of the movement, which advocated the separation of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan from the Indian state of Punjab.

In the half-hour documentary, which aired in Australia and uploaded to social media, she details how her and her crew’s permission to film on the Punjab-Pakistan border was suddenly blocked by Indian officials without any explanation. The case was withdrawn, and how she was questioned by Indian officials about her crew and the locations she visited to cover the incident.

“Obviously we are being monitored and people are concerned about the reporting that we are doing,” she said.

On March 26, less than a week after the documentary aired, the Indian government successfully asked YouTube to block the video from being played in India.

The next day, a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Ms. Díaz that her visa extension request would not be extended, according to a person directly familiar with the situation. The person requested anonymity due to sensitivity. Nature of the problem. Ms Dias notified the Australian government and Australian diplomats began lobbying for her visa, the person said.

After weeks of bureaucratic procedures, Ms. Díaz was granted a visa extension on the evening of April 18, the person said. But Dias told the podcast that with her flight back to Australia leaving the next day and having packed up her life in India, she decided to leave. She left on the first day of voting in India’s national election.

A senior Indian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, refuted her claims, saying Ms Dias had been informed in advance that her visa would be extended.

The official said Ms Dias violated the terms of her previous visa by trying to film at the India-Pakistan border, which required permission. Ms Dias previously said she sought and received the permission, but it was revoked at the last minute.

Ms Dias was not prevented from covering the Indian elections, but her accreditation was delayed because she had not yet received a visa extension, the Indian official said, adding that her colleagues at the ABC had been accredited to cover the elections.

Ms. Dias’ departure adds to growing concerns about press freedom in India. Indian journalists face huge pressure Modi’s government has consolidated power during the decade he has led the country.Mr Modi is seeking a third semester took power in parliamentary elections starting this month.

Foreign journalists in India also reported increased pressure. In February, French freelance journalist Vanessa Dougnac said she was forced to leave India, where she had lived for 25 years, after authorities told her they intended to withdraw her permanent residence permit.

The authorities accused her of publishing “malicious and critical” reporting and creating a “biased negative perception of India”. They said she worked as a journalist without holding a valid license and had her work permit revoked without cause in September 2022.



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