Threats, no access, shorter visas: Three surveys reveal the woes of foreign correspondents in India

Their anxieties intensified after the BBC’s IT surveys. Govt official says they shouldn’t demand ‘special privileges’.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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In India, every second foreign correspondent has been summoned by the Narendra Modi government to explain their reportage critical of ministries. Since August 2019, almost no one has been allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir and report independently there. And journalists who write “negative stories” are given visas valid for less than a year, putting their jobs at stake.

These are some of the findings of three internal surveys conducted in 2020, 2021 and 2022 among journalists in India who are either foreign nationals or who are overseas citizens of India cardholders. The results encapsulate the struggles they face in India, especially at a time when the Modi government has an uneasy relationship with the foreign press. 

This has worsened with the government’s backlash to the BBC’s documentary on Narendra Modi, which was swiftly followed by the income tax department conducting “surveys” at the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai. 

As one foreign correspondent with a European media house told Newslaundry, they have “endured enormous pressure” for reports critical of the Modi government. “It’s become extremely stressful for our employees here,” they said on condition of anonymity. “We feel unsafe after a sensitive story is published.”

In the surveys – and the results of two of them were shared with the ministry of external affairs – the journalists answered questions like these:

1. What was the duration of your visa?

2. Were you permitted to visit restricted/protected areas? (This includes Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, the Northeast, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, border areas, etc.)

3. How long did you have to wait for permit approval?

4. Did the MEA call in your bureau chief/editor to discuss reports?

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