Why is the Modi government afraid of an Aussie radio journalist? 

India has denied visas to a team of Australian journalists led by legendary host Phillip Adams. The ABC team is wondering whether it has anything to do with their recent coverage of Adani coal mine

Photo courtesy: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Photo courtesy: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

NH Political Bureau

Is the Modi-led government fearful of a free press; a press that they cannot control unlike the media in this country. According to reports, the Indian government has denied visas to journalists from Australian government-funded ABC News, allegedly because of an investigative report published on Adani Group by a few other journalists working in the same network.

Ramachandra Guha, had in an article in Hindustan Times on February 10, questioned why the Indian consulate had denied visas to a team of journalists led by legendary radio journalist Phillip Adams, who hosts the radio show Late Night Live. The 78-year-old presenter was meant to travel around India, speaking to a number of people, to do a show on the world’s largest democracy.

Guha asks “Why was Phillip Adams not allowed by our Government to visit India? He is not a drug smuggler, terrorist, or tax evader; on the other hand, he is a venerated public figure in a country that is a democracy like ours, a country with which we have close ties.”

Adams and his team had applied for visas in December and soon after had booked their flight tickets and accommodation too, because they believed they would be granted visas. They were not told why their visas were denied either, though another ABC staffer was purportedly told by the Australian government that the visa refusal was related to Adani.

Phillip Adams had tweeted: ‘After a year’s planning & months seeking visas LNL was blocked from entering India ..no reasons given, just obsfucation.(might it have something to do with 4C’s Adani report?) Now my proposed guests are telling Indian media..this is a grim portent for all ABC journalists.’

Another member of Adams’ team, Amruta Slee had written, “For months colleagues and I have been working on a series of programs about India since independence for Radio National. We received a grant to travel to the subcontinent and interview the country's best and brightest: historians, economists, investigative journalists, satirists, environmentalists, academics, architects and student leaders.”

“We were advised to apply for journalist visas back in December, well ahead of our planned flight in February... We never got our visas. We haven't had an official explanation. We did receive some strange emails: requests to send a list of who we would talk to and offers to have someone accompany us around Delhi. There are troubling questions about what this means for Australian journalism. But that's not all that's at stake.

“In October last year, reporter Stephen Long and the Four Corners team dug into the dealings of the company behind the controversial Adani coal mine and found a history of environmental and corporate malfeasance. It was a hard-hitting piece but still it seemed incredible that it could affect our visit. After all, India is a democracy.”

Clearly, India is not as free a democracy as perceived. Was the government upset because of a report against a private conglomerate Adani in Australia, and if yes, why? Did the report affect the government in India? These questions are unlikely to be answered. One can only guess.

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