In Tears and Protest: Veteran Journalist Leaves India After 25 Years

Vanessa's forced exit raises concerns once again over press freedom. The world largest democracy already stands at 161 position out of 180 countries

Kolkata: India, the world’s largest democracy now stands at 161 place on the World Press Freedom Index out of 180 countries. This report is based on the press freedom situation in the year 2022 and the report is republished in 2023. We are all aware of the situation in journalism practices by the Indian media, but now, here is an example of how international journalists are facing challenges in the country. 

Vanessa Dougnac, a former French journalist, who worked as South Asia Correspondent for La Croix, Le Point, Le Temps, Le Soir has to leave as the Government of India has denied her rights to work as a journalist.  

Vanessa, who has been living in India for 25 years now, has studied, married an Indian and has a son.  

The French journalist is the latest case, otherwise, we have seen what happened with Ravish Kumar as he has to leave NDTV, NewsClick’s Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha is already in jail, how Rana Ayyub was harassed and Siddiqui Kappan has to spend years in jail, without reporting a story. Even the Editor’s body Editors Guild of India has been slapped with a case.

Below Vanessa’s statement.

I am writing these words in tears. Today, I am leaving India, the country where I came to 25 years ago as a student, and where I have worked for 23 years as a journalist. The place where I married, and raised my son, and which I call my home. 

Leaving is not my choice.

I am being forced to leave by the Government of India. Sixteen months ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs denied my right to work as a journalist, providing no reasons or justifications, and no hearing. Since then, the Ministry has not once responded to my repeated requests for explanations or review of this arbitrary action. Last month, I was sent a notice that accused me and my articles of being “malicious”, of harming “the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India” and required me to respond to why my Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card should not be cancelled. The notice further claimed that my articles could “provoke disorder and disturb peace”.

Today, I am unable to work and have been unfairly accused of prejudicing the interests of the state. It has become clear that I cannot keep living in India and earning my livelihood. I am fighting these accusations before the competent forums and I have full faith in the legal process. But I can’t afford to wait for its outcome. The proceedings with respect to my OCI status have shattered me, especially now that I see them as part of a wider effort by the Government of India to curb dissent from the OCI community. The authorities had earlier suggested I should change my profession. But I am a journalist, a profession that I hold dear to my heart, and I cannot agree to give it up because of unproven accusations. 

I would like to thank all the individuals, friends, and colleagues from the journalist fraternity who reached out to me to show their support.

I am immensely grateful for the extraordinary 23 years I spent as a journalist in India. I led a life filled with adventures and interactions across the subcontinent and had the opportunity to witness over two decades of India’s history. Being a foreign correspondent in India seeking to share with my French-speaking readers the complexity and richness of this country, was a privilege and an honor. I will cherish the memories I have of the warmth of the people and the beauty of this immense region. Delhi was my beloved city, where I lived my life. To bid farewell to it now is a tremendous sorrow.

I hope I will be able to come back to India, one day.

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