Accused of 'malicious reporting', French journalist Vanessa Dougnac leaves India

In her statement, Dougnac said the MHA denied her the right to work as a journalist without providing reasons, justifications, or a hearing

Vanessa Dougnac, accused by the Indian government of biased reporting, leaves India after two decades (photo: @RSF_inter/X)
Vanessa Dougnac, accused by the Indian government of biased reporting, leaves India after two decades (photo: @RSF_inter/X)

NH Digital

French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, accused by the Modi government of engaging in "malicious" reporting and violating regulations, has issued a statement announcing her departure from the country.

Dougnac, the longest serving foreign correspondent in India, who lived in the country for more than two decades and served as the former South Asia correspondent for French publications La Croix, Le Point, Le Temps, and Le Soir, left India on Friday, asserting that she was compelled to do so by the Indian government.

In her statement released on the evening of Friday, 16 February, Dougnac revealed that 16 months ago, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) denied her the right to work as a journalist without providing any reasons, justifications, or a hearing.

"I am writing these words in tears," she wrote. “Today, I am leaving India, the country where I came 25 years ago as a student, and where I have worked for 23 years as a journalist. The place where I married, raised my son, and which I call my home.

"…I am being forced to leave by the Government of India. Sixteen months ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied my right to work as a journalist, providing no reasons nor justifications, and no hearing.”

The MHA and the ministry of external affairs (MEA) have refrained from commenting on the situation. The controversy came to light on 18 January, just days before French President Emmanuel Macron's scheduled visit to India as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade.

The home ministry had issued a notice to Dougnac, asking why her Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card should not be cancelled. The notice accused her of creating a "biased negative perception" of the country and gave her a 15-day deadline until 2 February to respond.

In her recent statement, Dougnac lamented the MHA's lack of response to her repeated requests for explanations or a review of what she deemed an "arbitrary action".

She emphasised that she is currently unable to work, facing unfair accusations of prejudicing the interests of the state, and has concluded that continuing to live in India and earning a livelihood is no longer feasible.

While expressing her commitment to fighting the accusations through legal channels, Dougnac acknowledged the urgency of her situation and the inability to wait for the outcome of legal proceedings.

She described the proceedings related to her OCI status as distressing, especially as she perceives them as part of a broader effort by the Government of India to suppress dissent within the OCI community.

Notably, the Indian foreign secretary suggested that the case was less about journalism and more related to compliance with rules and regulations in India. He emphasised that individuals are free to pursue activities for which they are accredited.

In her statement, however, Dougnac claimed the authorities had earlier suggested she change her profession. “But I am a journalist, a profession that I hold dear to my heart, and I cannot agree to give it up because of unproven accusations,” she said.

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