Foreign journalists violating Indian laws liable to be punished: MHA

New Delhi: Allforeigners have to respect Indian law and those found in violation are liableto be punished but that does not mean they are blacklisted forever, a HomeMinistry official said on Friday after a Reuters journalist was denied entryinto India for allegedly violating visa rules.

Theaction against Cathal McNaughton, chief photographer at the news agency’s Delhioffice who was recently sent back from the airport here after his arrival froman overseas trip, is not permanent and can be reviewed after six months or ayear, the official told PTI. “Everybody has to follow law. For violation,the consequence is the same for everybody. Foreigners should respect Indianlaw. If any Indian visits abroad and violates the law of that country, he orshe is also liable to be punished,” the official said.

McNaughton,an Irish national who won the Pulitzer Prize in May 2018, allegedly travelledto restricted and protected areas in Jammu and Kashmir without permission. Healso  reported from the state withoutvalid permission. “He may be a winner of some awards, but that does notgive him the licence to violate Indian laws. The Ministry of External Affairsregularly informs foreign journalists about Indian rules and regulations. Andin certain places, a foreigner is required to take permission. If you violatethese rules and regulations, we are bound to take action,” the officialwarned.

“Ifsomebody is denied entry, it does not mean that he is blacklisted forever. Itmay be reviewed after six months or one year,” he said. Another officialsaid foreign correspondents also require prior home ministry approval to filmin restricted and protected areas such as border districts, defenceinstallations and other places of strategic importance, national parks andwildlife sanctuaries.

Accordingto visa rules for foreign journalists, “A foreign journalist, TVcameraperson etc, including a foreign journalist already based in India, whodesires to visit a restricted or protected area or Jammu and Kashmir or theNorth Eastern States, should apply for a special permit through the Ministry ofExternal Affairs (External Publicity Division)”. Under normalcircumstances, India grants foreign journalists visas for up to three months.In rare cases, a six-month journalist visa, with a single or double entry, canbe issued.

TheMHA and the MEA have also held discussions to review protocols on foreignjournalists. In May this year, the MEA reminded foreign journalists based inIndia that they require permission to travel to areas protected under theForeigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958. The areas are — all of ArunachalPradesh, parts of Himachal Pradesh, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, parts ofRajasthan, all of Sikkim and parts of Uttarakhand.

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