French Journalist Sébastien Farcis Based In Delhi Says, 'Forced To Leave India' After Home Ministry Refuses To Renew His Visa

French Journalist Sébastien Farcis Based In Delhi Says, 'Forced To Leave India' After Home Ministry Refuses To Renew His Visa

French journalist Sébastien Farcis, who has been working in Delhi for over 13 years, shared his statement about being compelled to leave India after the government refused to renew his journalism permit. He calls the government's refusal “incomprehensible censorship.”

Manasi KambleUpdated: Thursday, June 20, 2024, 04:27 PM IST
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French journalist Sébastien Farcis | FPJ

Sébastien Farcis, a French journalist who has reported from India for 13 years, was compelled to return to France after his journalist permit renewal was denied by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) without explanation. This decision, which came into effect on March 7th, left Farcis unable to work and without any income, despite his appeals to the ministry being disregarded. Farcis, who holds Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status through marriage to an Indian woman, expressed deep shock at what he termed "incomprehensible censorship" that uprooted him and his family abruptly.

Similar Incident

His departure marks the second instance in four months of a French journalist leaving India under similar circumstances, following Vanessa Dougnac's forced departure in February. Dougnac, who had reported on India for two decades, also faced refusal of a new work permit and threats concerning her OCI residency. According to Farcis, several other foreign correspondents with OCI status have been barred from journalistic activities in India in recent years.

Demand For Answer

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has strongly condemned these actions as indicative of growing restrictions on foreign journalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration. RSF emphasized the need for India to allow foreign journalists to operate freely and called for an end to what it describes as persecution against media personnel.

Liberation, for whom Farcis reported, and other media outlets have sought explanations from Indian authorities regarding these decisions, with little response. This situation underscores a broader pattern where foreign correspondents face escalating restrictions, including denial of access to regions, shortened visas, and refusals of permits, alongside reported harassment of national media by Indian authorities.

The Big Shock

The French journalist claimed that on several occasions the MHA had allowed him to report even in the border areas. “Therefore, this work ban comes as a big shock.”

Farcis said he was informed of the news on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections in India, which he was “forbidden” to cover.

Speaking about the move's great impact on his family, Farcis said he was married to an Indian woman and held an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status. He claimed that he was being asked to leave without any reason.

“I am therefore deeply attached to India, which has become my second homeland. But with no more work nor income, my family has been pushed out of India without explanation, and uprooted overnight for no apparent reason.” Farcis said, according to a report by Committee To Protect Journalist.

Visa Issues Faced By Foreign Journalists

There have been widespread reports of journalists being denied coverage of Lok Sabha news specifically. However, obtaining visas can be challenging for foreign journalists in India, especially those critical of the government.

The Journalism Landscape In India

India boasts a vast and diverse media landscape, with over 100,000 newspapers and 380 TV news channels. However, press freedom faces challenges. India ranks 159th out of 180 countries on the 2024 Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index. Reasons for low ranking could be press freedom decline. India's ranking has steadily declined in recent years, with journalists facing threats, harassment, legal action, and government pressure.

Netizen's Mixed Reactions

Some are expressing sympathy and even criticizing the government for its policies regarding restrictions imposed on journalists, but others are celebrating the journalist's visa ban as a "good riddance" due to his previous posts in which he expressed disapproval of the government.

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