French journalist forced to leave India as MHA refuses to renew his work permit 

‘No reason has been provided to justify this work ban, despite formal and repeated requests made to the MHA,’ Sebastien Farcis, who has lived and worked as a journalist in India for 13 years, said in a post on X

Updated - June 20, 2024 08:05 pm IST

Published - June 20, 2024 07:41 pm IST - New Delhi

French journalist Sebastien Farcis, working in India since 2011, said he has been forced to leave the country after being denied the renewal of his work permit without providing any reason.

French journalist Sebastien Farcis, working in India since 2011, said he has been forced to leave the country after being denied the renewal of his work permit without providing any reason. | Photo Credit: X/@sebfarcis

A second French journalist, working in India since 2011, said he had been forced to leave the country after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied the renewal of his work permit without providing any reason.

Sebastien Farcis, who is married to an Indian and has the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status since 2021, said he was deeply attached to India, which had become his 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,” Mr. Farcis said in a post on social media platform X.

When asked to comment on the matter, there was no response from the MHA. 

Earlier this year, French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, who had been living in India for 22 years, left the country after the MHA sent a notice citing “malicious reportage” and visa violations, asking why her OCI card should not be cancelled.

Mr. Farcis was the South Asia correspondent and bureau chief of Radio France, a national public broadcaster, and its world service, Radio France Internationale, a government-funded, independent broadcast organisation.

He had earlier received permits from the MHA to visit restricted areas, had reported from Sikkim on organic farming, and attended a G20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir.

He had previously been granted a journalist permit on September 1, 2022 for a period of one year. Upon applying for its renewal on August 9, 2023, he was informed on March 7, days before the recently concluded General Election was announced, that his application had been denied. No reasons were cited. His appeal against the decision in April did not elicit a response from the MHA.

“On 17th June, I was forced to leave India, a country where I had lived and worked as a journalist for 13 years. Three months ago, on March 7, MHA denied the renewal of my journalist permit, preventing me from practicing my profession and depriving me of all my income. No reason has been provided to justify this work ban, despite formal and repeated requests made to the MHA. I have tried to appeal also, but to no avail so far,” Mr. Farcis said in a statement on X.

He added that he had been working as a journalist in India since 2011, and obtained all the necessary visas and accreditations. “I have respected the regulations imposed in India for foreign journalists and never worked in restricted or protected areas without a permit. On several occasions, the MHA even granted me permits to report from border areas. Therefore, this work ban comes as a big shock: it was communicated to me on the eve of the Indian general elections, the largest democratic elections in the world, which I was hence forbidden to cover. This appeared to me as an incomprehensible censorship,” he stated.

“This denial comes in a worrying context of increasing restrictions on the work of foreign journalists: after Vanessa Dougnac, I am the second French journalist in four months having to leave India under these conditions. At least five OCI foreign correspondents have been banned from working as journalists in less than two years. I have now applied for a new work permit, and hope it will be accepted. In the meantime, as I am not able to work, I am forced to return to France,” Mr. Farcis said.

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