Australian journalist says he had no choice but to leave India

A senior journalist at Australia’s National Broadcasting Corporation has accused authorities of blocking her from attending events, asking for her coverage to be taken down and refusing to update her for weeks after her reporting on Sikh separatism angered the Indian government. He said that he was effectively expelled from India. her visa.

Avani Dias, South Asia correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said: Social media Indian authorities said last month that her application for an extension to her journalist visa would not be approved because a TV program she produced about accusations of Indian involvement in the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada “crossed the line”. He said he told her.

Diaz said on the podcast that after lobbying by the Australian government, he was finally granted a last-minute extension to his temporary visa, with less than a day left before he was due to leave the country.looking for modiBut she said she ultimately decided to quit because she “found it too difficult to work in India.”

“I had a hard time attending public events organized by Modi’s party,” Dias said on a podcast about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian government disputed Diaz’s account and said he had been assured by senior officials that his visa would be renewed.

Her resignation comes amid a widespread crackdown on free speech in the country and raids on journalists reporting on sensitive topics. In the decade she has led her country, Ms. Modi has consolidated power across India and its institutions, challenging modern India’s founding principles such as secularism and freedom of the press. He is seeking a third term in parliamentary elections that began this month.

In March, Diaz produced a television program about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s accusations last year that agents representing the Indian government were behind the murder of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. did.of 30 minute documentary Considered a movement advocating the creation of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan from the Indian state of Punjab.

In the 30-minute documentary, which aired in Australia and was uploaded to social media, she describes how her and her crew’s filming permits on the Punjab-Pakistan border were suddenly and without explanation revoked by Indian authorities. She explained in detail how she approached the shoot. Indian officials asked questions about the crew and the locations they visited to report on this story.

“It’s clear we’re really being watched and there are concerns about the stories we’re 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 showing in India.

The next day, Díaz was told by a Foreign Ministry representative that her visa extension application would not be renewed, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. nature of the problem. Diaz notified the Australian government, and Australian diplomats began lobbying for Diaz to obtain a visa.

After weeks of bureaucratic back and forth, Diaz received her visa extension on the evening of April 18, officials said. But his flight back to Australia was leaving the next day and he had already made preparations for life in India, so he decided to leave, Dias said on the podcast. She left on the first day of voting in India’s national elections.

A senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, disputed Diaz’s account and said he had been informed in advance that his visa would be extended.

The official said Diaz violated the terms of his previous visa by attempting to film at the India-Pakistan border, where a permit was required. Diaz said she previously asked for and was granted that permission before it was revoked at the last minute.

Diaz was not prevented from covering the Indian election, but her certification was delayed because she had not yet received a visa extension, Indian officials said, adding that her colleagues at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation were not prevented from covering the election. It added that it had been certified to do so.

Dias’ resignation adds to concerns about press freedom in India, where journalists are under intense pressure from the Modi government.

Foreign journalists in India are reporting increased pressure as well. French freelance correspondent Vanessa Dunac said in February that she was told by authorities that her permanent residence permit was being revoked, forcing her to leave India, where she has lived for 25 years.

Officials accused her of providing “malicious and critical” reporting and creating “a biased negative perception of India.” They said she had been working as a journalist without a valid permit after her work permit was revoked for no apparent reason in September 2022.

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