Indian authorities compelled Vanessa Dougnac, a former South Asia correspondent for multiple international news organizations who is married to an Indian citizen, to leave the country after 23 years of reporting. Dougnac waits for her flight to Paris on February 16, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Dougnac)

French journalist Vanessa Dougnac leaves India after journalism permit revoked

New York, February 16, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Indian authorities to immediately reinstate French reporter Vanessa Dougnac’s journalism permit and cease using legal technicalities to prevent journalists from carrying out their duties.

Indian authorities compelled Dougnac, a former South Asia correspondent for multiple international news organizations who is married to an Indian citizen, to leave the country on Friday after 23 years of reporting, according to a statement issued by her lawyers in the capital, New Delhi, which CPJ reviewed.

In September 2022, the Indian government revoked Dougnac’s journalism permit without providing any rationale. CPJ’s review of Dougnac’s work showed that she stopped reporting from India at that time.

On January 18, 2024, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notice to Dougnac saying that it intended to withdraw her permanent residency status, alleging that she had engaged in journalistic activities in the country without a permit and describing her “malicious” work as having created a “biased negative perception” of India.

As the spouse of an Indian citizen, Dougnac holds permanent residency status, known as an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) visa. Since March 2021, Indian regulations have mandated that OCI visa holders must obtain permits to work as journalists in India.

Authorities gave Dougnac, who refuted the allegations, until February 2 to respond.

“It’s deeply disheartening to witness the harassment that Vanessa Dougnac, a veteran journalist who has made India her home for the past two decades, has endured at the hands of Indian authorities in the last 17 months,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “The Indian government must promptly establish a transparent mechanism that enables foreign journalists to seek redressal, in line with the expectations of any democratic and law-abiding nation.”

Dougnac regularly reported on a range of issues, such as human rights, international and domestic politics, for several publications, including the French daily newspaper La Croix, French weekly Le Point, Swiss French-language daily newspaper Le Temps, and French-language Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir.

“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 in her statement, reviewed by CPJ.

Several foreign journalists, including OCI visa holders, have faced multiple challenges in winning the right to work legally in India in the last few years, including what one described as an “arbitrary” process of being approved or denied journalism permits and visas.

CPJ’s email to Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla requesting comment did not receive a response.