Asia

Sri Lankan-Australian journalist forced to ‘leave India abruptly’ after reporting critically on Modi government


Shweta Sharma/Independent

New Delhi, April 23: An Australian journalist had to “leave India abruptly” after allegedly being told by the Narendra Modi government that she had “crossed a line”, deepening concerns about sliding press freedom in the country.

Avani Dias, the South Asia bureau chief of Australia’s national broadcaster ABC News, claimed that the Hindu nationalist government had made it “too difficult” for her to report from the country, including on the national elections that kicked off last week.

“Last week, I had to leave India abruptly. The Modi government told me my visa extension would be denied,” she said on X. “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’.”

In the final episode of her podcast, “Looking for Modi” Ms Dias, who has worked in India since January 2022, said an official from India’s Foreign Ministry had called her to inform that her visa would not be renewed and she would have to leave the country in a couple of weeks.

Misleading, says Indian government

The sources insisted that Avani Dias had violated visa rules but was still given an assurance that her visa would be extended so she could cover the elections.

Responding to a senior Australian journalist’s claims that she had to leave India abruptly on the day of voting for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections because her visa extension was denied, sources in the Union government have labelled them “not correct, misleading and mischievous”.

The sources insisted that she had violated visa rules but was still given an assurance that her visa would be extended so she could cover the elections.

In posts on social media, Avani Dias, the South Asia Bureau Chief for Australian broadcaster ABC News said she had to leave India on Friday, April 19.

“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 our flight,” Ms Dias posted on Instagram

“Ms Dias was found to have violated visa rules while undertaking her professional pursuits. Inspite of this, on her request, she was assured that her visa would be extended for the coverage of the general elections. Her previous visa was valid till 20th April 2024,” the source added.

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