Wednesday, April 24, 2024

“I am being forced,” French journalist leaves India amidst expulsion threat, press groups react

Indian authorities compelled Vanessa Dougnac, a former South Asia correspondent for multiple international news organizations who is married to an Indian citizen, to leave the country after 23 years of reporting. Dougnac waits for her flight to Paris on February 16, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Dougnac) Via CPJ

French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, who had been the longest-serving foreign correspondent in India for multiple international news organizations, announced her departure from India on Friday after the government issued a two-week revocation of her Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card last month, for alleged concerns over her reporting.

“Today, I am leaving India, the country where I came 25 years ago as a student, and where I have worked for 23 years as a journalist. The place where I married, raised my son, and which I call my home. Leaving is not my choice. I am being forced to leave by the government of India,” Dougnac wrote in a statement.

On January 18, the Foreigners Registration Office under the ministry issued a notice to Dougnac alleging that her “malicious” work has created a “biased negative perception” of the country. The notice also alleged that Dougnac’s work could “provoke disorder and disturb peace in certain sections of society”.

Earlier, around 30 foreign correspondents stationed in India jointly penned an open letter expressing solidarity with Dougnac and urging the Indian authorities to resolve her case promptly, ensuring it does not adversely affect her career or family life.

“I see them as part of a wider effort by the government of India to curb dissent from the OCI community,” she wrote in her statement. “The authorities had earlier suggested I should change my profession. But I am a journalist, a profession that I hold dear to my heart, and I cannot agree to give it up because of unproven accusations.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday urged Indian authorities to immediately reinstate the reporter’s journalism permit and cease using legal technicalities to prevent journalists from carrying out their duties

In September 2022, the Indian government revoked Dougnac’s journalism permit. CPJ’s review of Dougnac’s work showed that she stopped reporting from India at that time.

Dougnac regularly reported on a range of issues, such as human rights, and international and domestic politics, for several publications, including the French daily newspaper La Croix, French weekly Le Point, Swiss French-language daily newspaper Le Temps, and French-language Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the methods used by the Indian authorities to make Dougnac leave, which they stated are “symptomatic of the growing persecution of journalists in India”.

“At least four OCI journalists based in India have had their work permit renewals refused, and two of them have chosen to leave the country,” RSF said in a statement.

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