April 18, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Reporters censor themselves in India to avoid losing residence permits: RSF report

The Nepal Weekly
February 27, 2024

As Hindu nationalist propaganda takes an ever greater hold on India, more and more foreign reporters are steering clear of sensitive subjects for fear of losing their residence permits. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the bureaucratic uncertainties and pressures to which journalists are subjected to the point that some censor themselves or even stop practicing journalism in India.

“Do you keep writing, do you stop, do you leave? These are the questions that many foreign journalists in India are asking themselves as the governmental environment gets increasingly hostile,” according to the report. Vanessa Dougnac, a French journalist who had been living in India for 25 years, was forced to return to France earlier this month after being threatened in January with being stripped of her residence permit and being refused press accreditation 18 months ago, according to RSF.

“In India, more and more journalists fear suffering the same fate, while abroad, journalists of Indian origin stop covering India in order to be able to keep visiting as tourists. In a sign of the climate of fear that has taken hold within the media community, almost all of the people interviewed by RSF for this investigation insisted on not being identified by name.”

The Overseas Citizen of India card (OCI) is a lifetime residence permit issued to foreigners of Indian origin or to the spouses of Indian citizens. Its original aim was to encourage members of the Indian diaspora to become more involved in India, but it has turned into a tool for controlling their movements and activities in India, claims RSF.

Since 2019, someone who is stripped of their OCI status “will also be blacklisted preventing his/her future entry into India,” says a Ministry of Home Affairs document that now acts as a permanent threat hanging over “OCI journalists” in India.

“You’re given the idea that you have that option to build up your life here and everything stops suddenly,” said one OCI journalist resident in India.