India threatens to expel French journalist ahead of Macron visit

India threatens to expel French journalist ahead of Macron visit

NEW DELHI (AFP): A French journalist said on Tuesday she was facing expulsion from India after two decades for what authorities have termed “malicious and critical” reportage, days before a state visit by President Emmanuel Macron.

Critics say that press freedom in the world’s biggest democracy is increasingly under attack, with journalists who touch on sensitive topics often subjected to government rebuke.

The latest is Vanessa Dougnac, a contributor to several French-language publications including the weekly magazine Le Point, who has been based in India for 22 years.

Last week the home ministry sent a notice to the reporter saying her work was “inimical” to national interests.

“Her journalistic activities are malicious and critical in manner… they create biased perception about India,” the notice said.

“In addition, her activities may also provoke disorder and disturb peace.”

The notice gave Dougnac, who has an Indian spouse, until February 2 to challenge the ministry’s decision to cancel her permanent residency — a move that would force her to leave the country.

Dougnac, who has reported on a number of flashpoint topics including the ongoing Maoist Naxalite insurgency in parts of rural India, denied “all the allegations and imputations” made against her in the letter.

“India is my home, a country which I deeply love and respect, and I have never engaged in any acts that are in any manner prejudicial to Indian interests,” she said in a statement.

The home ministry and foreign ministry were contacted for comment.

The notice was issued to Dougnac a week before Macron’s Thursday arrival in India, where he will be guest of honour at the annual Republic Day military parade.

Macron has eagerly courted India as a strategic partner and buyer of arms, and his visit reciprocates his invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for last year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

Modi’s government has been accused of stifling independent media, with India falling 21 places to 161 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index since he took office in 2014.

Indian offices of the BBC were raided by the tax department last year, weeks after the British broadcaster was hit with a barrage of government criticism for airing a documentary questioning Modi’s role in 2002 religious riots.