Australian journalist alleges she was forced to abruptly leave India, foreign correspondents protest

Visa Row. Photo courtesy: X/@AvaniDias

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New Delhi/IBNS-CMEDIA: Australia journalist Avani Dias has alleged that she was forced to leave India “abruptly” as the central government denied an extension of her visa citing her reporting had “crossed a line”.

Dias, who works as the South Asian Bureau chief for ABC News, posted on X, “Last week, I had to leave India abruptly. The Modi Government told me my visa extension would be denied, saying my reporting ‘crossed a line’. After Australian Government intervention, I got a mere two-month extension …less than 24 hours before my flight.”

“We were also told my election accreditation would not come through because of an Indian Ministry directive. We left on day one of voting in the national election in what Modi calls ‘the mother of democracy’.”

Dias, who left India last week, had her claim strongly rebutted by the central government, which is run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Rejecting her claims, an Indian official said as quoted by Hindustan Times, “She left because she had to meet the timeline for another job offer in Australia. The reason for her leaving was not delay in issuance of visa but personal reasons.”

Several foreign journalists based in India have strongly protested against the issue in an open letter, which was also shared by Avani on her X profile.

The letter reads, “Foreign journalists in India have grappled with increased restrictions on visas and journalism permits for those holding the status of Overseas Citizen of India. The circumstances of Ms. Dias’s departure are further cause for concern.”

“We call on the Indian government to facilitate the vital work of a free press in line with India’s democratic traditions,” it reads.

The issue has come up following Dias’ documentary on the allegedly killing Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada was removed from YouTube in India.

The issue of Nijjar had triggered a massive diplomatic row after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations of a potential link” between New Delhi and the killing.

The government official claimed the documentary-titled ‘Sikhs, Murder and Spies’- was shot without permission.