New Delhi, Jan 24: Expressing concern over the notice issued by Ministry of Home Affairs to a French journalist Vanessa Dougnac alleging ‘violations of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) rule and guidelines’ and that the card could be revoked, the Indian Journalists Union urges the government to ensure justice and fair play and not indulge in strong accusations listed in the notice such as “malicious” reporting that creates a “negative perception” of India, inciting disorder, not taking permission for travelling to restricted areas and doing reporting on neighbouring countries. These, said the Union, smack of an act of vindictiveness, harassment and intimidation of the journalist and attack on press freedom.
In an official statement Vanessa has 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. 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.
There is a legal process to deal with such matters with which I shall cooperate. As the legal process is ongoing and the issues are pending consideration before the concerned authorities, I would request that the process is allowed to run its course and my privacy is respected during this time.”
Vanessa has been issued a two-week notice on January 18 and needs to reply by February 2. She is married to an Indian and has been staying in Delhi since past 22 years. A Home Ministry source told IJU that the notice has been issued for “violation of OCI rules and guidelines, particularly the do’s and don’ts listed”, and further action, if any, will be taken on the response given by the journalist to the notice. He, however, refused to answer questions as to why her special permit to do journalistic activity had not been renewed since 2022.
In a statement, IJU President and former member of Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit said that Vanessa, correspondent for La Croix et du Point, has clearly denied the accusations levelled and would take due legal recourse, the Home Ministry mustn’t indulge in witch-hunting and clamping down on press freedom and critical reportage and must give her a fair hearing. More so as French President Emmanuel Macron’s is visiting Delhi as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, and the case has been widely taken up by the French media. Free press is part and parcel of a democracy, which India boasts of being, and the government must ensure not turning it into a mockery.