‘No reason provided’: Another French journalist says ‘forced to leave’ India

The statement comes four months after French journalist Vanessa Dougnac claimed she was forced to leave the country.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Sébastien Farcis

Sébastien Farcis, a French journalist who was the India correspondent for Radio France Internationale and Libération, has claimed that he was forced to leave the country with the Ministry of Home Affairs denying the renewal of his journalist permit. “No reason has been provided to justify this work ban,” he claimed.

This comes four months after French journalist Vanessa Dougnac issued a statement saying she was “forced to leave India”.

Newslaundry reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs for comment. This report will be updated if a response is received.

In an email sent to the journalist on March 7, MHA’s Foreigners Regional Registration Office division stated that his request for journalistic activities had been denied by competent authorities. However, it did not mention the reason for the work permit denial.

The decision came about seven months after Farcis had applied for the renewal of his work permit in August last year, a month before his permit expired.

Newslaundry learned that the French national has filed an appeal with the MHA against the FRRO’s decision. A new request for a work permit is still pending with the MHA, a source said.

Farcis has Overseas Citizen of India status. He was also the former secretary of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and among the 10 foreign journalists who quit the club after its new president, S Venkat Narayan, brought the club’s “name into disrepute” by visiting Myanmar last year.

Foreign journalists are usually given work permits for one year. The OCI journalists could work without a work permit in India until mid-2022, when the government mandated even OCI card holders, working as journalists, to require work permits.   

A government source told Newslaundry that India, a sovereign country, was not bound to explain reasons for the work permit denial. 

In a statement, the free press advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists has urged India to renew Farcis’s permit and asked it to desist from “using legal technicalities”. 

“The departure of Sébastien Farcis highlights the increasing challenges faced by foreign journalists in India. The arbitrary refusal to renew his journalism permit, without explanation, undermines press freedom and disrupts journalists’ lives,” said Kunal Majumder, CPJ’s India representative. 

‘Impact on family, incomprehensible censorship’

Farcis has an Overseas Citizen of India status.

In a statement on X, he said, “On 17th June, I was forced to leave India, a country where I had lived and worked as a journalist for 13 years, as a South Asia correspondent for Radio France Internationale, Radio France, Libération and the Swiss and Belgian public radios. Three months ago, on 7th March, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied the renewal of my journalist permit, preventing me from practicing my profession and depriving me of all my income. No reason has been provided to justify this work ban, despite formal and repeated requests made to the MHA. I have tried to appeal also, but to no avail so far.” 

“I have been working as a journalist in India since 2011, and have obtained all the necessary visas and accreditations. I have respected the regulations imposed in India for foreign journalists and never worked in restricted or protected areas without a permit. On several occasions, the MHA even granted me permits to report from border areas. Therefore, this work ban comes as a big shock: it was communicated to me on the eve of the Indian general elections, the largest democratic elections in the world, which I was hence forbidden to cover. This appeared to me as an incomprehensible censorship.”

Farcis said the decision also “had a great impact on my family: I am married to an Indian woman, and I have the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status. I am therefore deeply attached to India, which has become my second homeland. But with no more work nor income, my family has been pushed out of India without explanation, and uprooted overnight for no apparent reason.”

“This denial comes in a worrying context of increasing restrictions on the work of foreign journalists: after Vanessa Dougnac, I am the second French journalist in four months having to leave India under these conditions. At least five OCI foreign correspondents have been banned from working as journalists in less than two years.I have now applied for a new work permit, and hope it will be accepted. In the meantime, as I am not able to work, I am forced to return to France.”

His reportage

While working for Radio France Internationale, Farcis has reported on the pro-Chinese sentiment in Maldives to the “detriment of India”, the Indian electoral opposition “overwhelmed by legal proceedings”, dazzling growth and social disparities in India, the Ram Mandir inauguration, apart from issues such as health hazards linked to shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh elections, and Nepalese enlisted by the Russian army.

For Libération, Farcis wrote about Vanessa Dougnac’s India exit and press freedom in the country, an international sect of tantric yoga with a Rishikesh connection, India-Canada tensions over pro-Khalistan activists, among other issues.

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