French journalist served notice over OCI card denies charge of ‘malicious’ reportage

The MHA sent a notice to the journalist asking why her OCI card should not be withdrawn.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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A French journalist, who was served a notice by the Union ministry of home affairs asking why her Overseas Citizen of India card should not be withdrawn, has denied the government’s allegation that her reports on India were “malicious”.   

A notice issued by the Foreigners Registration Office of the MHA on January 18 has alleged that Vanessa Dougnac’s reportage created “biased negative perception about India”. It also accused her of “undertaking journalistic activities without any special permission as required under Citizenship Act 1955 and rules/regulations issued thereunder”, The Print reported. 

Dougnac, who has been living in India for 22 years and is married to an Indian citizen, writes for French publications Le Point and La Croix, and Swiss and Belgian daily newspapers Le Temps and Le Soir from south Asia.  

Dougnac confirmed in a public statement that she has received a notice from “the concerned department of the government of India,” asking her why her OCI card should not be cancelled. 

Newslaundry did not see the contents of the notice. 

Sources said she has to respond to it by February 2. She also said that “India was her home”. The statement read, “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 as is being alleged.”

Her statement said: “I can confirm that I have received a notice from the concerned department of the Government of India, and that I deny all the allegations and imputations made therein against me and my conduct.”

This comes days ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s scheduled visit to India on January 25, to be the chief guest of the Republic Day parade.

What did she report on?

Dougnac has not reported on India since September 2022, when her work visa permit was cancelled, sources told Newslaundry. Her reports in French publications Le Point and La Croix, and Swiss daily Le Temps also suggested the same.

Since September 2022, Dougnac has only reported from neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Pakistan. 

These reports are concerned with the impact of climate change in Nepal and Maldives; bankruptcy in Sri Lanka and the role of Chinese debt trap; repression of students by the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh; and the contest between India and China to wield more influence in the neighbouring countries.

In her latest report for Le Temps, published on January 6, Dougnac reported on how Bangladesh’s elections were marred by “an unprecedented repression of opponents of the regime of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina”.

Another of her report for Le Point, published in June last year was updated on December 23, 2023. It said that the two Asian giants, India and China, were vying for supremacy in the Maldives. In January, a diplomatic row broke out between India and the Maldives after three junior ministers of the archipelago used disparaging remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

Before her cancellation of work permit, Dougnac reported on India’s wheat export ban, thrust on indigenous production of arms and ammunition, and Covid handling, among others.

The other reports by her included alleged increased incidents of discrimination and violence against Christians and Muslims under the Modi government since 2014 and weakened tribal rights in Jharkhand. The story on Jharkhand, published in La Croix in April 2021, detailed the protests against the Netarhat Firing Range Project on the hills of Gumla and Latehar since the 90s. “And despite the local presence Maoist rebels, the protests remained peaceful,” Dougnac reported.

‘Was not contacted by The Print

The Print published a report on the notice to Dougnac on Tuesday morning, but it did not name the journalist.

The report initially did not carry Dougnac’s statement, which was later added to it but without any clarification that the  report was updated.

Dougnac claimed that the reporter, Pia Krishnankutty, did not contact her for the report. “I would like to state at the outset that the story was published without attempting to speak to me for comment or informing me that it may be published,” she said.

Krishnankutty refused to respond to Dougnac’s charge when Newslaundry reached out to her.

Newslaundry also reached out to The Print editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, but he did not respond immediately. This report will be updated if a response is received.

Update at 6 pm, January 23, 2024This report has been updated with details of the journalist's work.

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