India on Friday said the notice issued to a Delhi-based French journalist was because of violation of visa rules and not due to the nature of her journalism. India conveyed this to the French delegation when the issue came up during the bilateral talks as part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s two-day visit here. French journalist Vanessa Dougnac was issued a notice by New Delhi for alleged violation of visa rules and sought a response from her by February 2.
“This has been brought to our attention by the French side, both prior to the visit and during the visit,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters in response to a question during a briefing on Macron’s talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said that France did “appreciate” India’s “frame of reference” to look at the case purely through a lens of compliance with rules.
“People are free to do what they are accredited to do in a given space. But here I think the principal issue is whether the person is compliant with the rules and regulations of the state under which they come,” Kwatra said.
An open letter signed by around 30 India-based foreign correspondents expressed “deep concern” at the MHA notice to Dougnac.
They said that Dougnac has lived in India for over two decades and is highly regarded as a senior journalist covering South Asia.
The statement said that Dougnac has cooperated with the relevant authorities in an effort to remove any misunderstanding.
The foreign correspondents hoped that her case “is resolved quickly as it affects not only her livelihood but also her family life”.
“And we request the Indian authorities to facilitate the vital work of a free press in line with India’s democratic traditions,” they said.
The signatories of the letter include journalists from Le Monde, The New York Times, The Washington Post, France 24, The Economist, The Guardian and France Televisions.