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'My Family Is Without an Income': French Journalist 'Forced' To Leave India

MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal has contested his claims, saying that his work permit is still under consideration.

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"My family is currently without an income. For three months I've been fighting. While I am still hopeful, I think my wife and I have to explore the possibility of a life outside India – a country we both love so much," said Sébastien Farcis, a French journalist stationed in New Delhi, who claimed that he was "forced" to leave the country by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Farcis had been living in India for the last 13 years as the South Asia correspondent for Radio France Internationale, Radio France, Libération and the Swiss and Belgian public radios.

He left India on 17 June after the MHA refused to renew his work permit in March – just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Quint has reached out to the MHA in connection with the revocation of Farcis' work permit but hasn't received a response yet. The story will be updated as and when they respond. Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that Farcis' work permit is still under consideration.

"Mr Farcis is an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card holder and under our regulations requires approval to carry out journalistic assignments. He has re-applied for renewal of work permit in May 2024, and to the best of my knowledge, his case is under consideration," MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said while addressing the media on Friday, 21 June.

"The question of his leaving the country is a decision for him to take. If he has taken it, that's fine," he added.

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'No Reason Given' 

While speaking to The Quint, Farcis said that he was baffled by the "arbitrariness" of the authorities, who purportedly did not provide any reason as to why they suddenly refused to renew his work permit after a long journalistic stint in the country.

"I immediately sent them a reply asking why they had denied my application, but I didn't get a response. I then filed for a review through my lawyer, asking for an explanation and also requesting them to reconsider my case. I didn't get a response to that either," he said.

Farcis, who came to India in 2011 and holds an OCI status, says that he had obtained all the necessary visas and accreditation to work as a journalist in the country. He also said that he never worked in restricted or protected areas without a permit, and always respected the regulations imposed on foreign journalists in India.

He has now applied for a new permit and is waiting for a response from the authorities.

While the French journalist refused to speculate about what might be the reason behind the MHA's decision, saying that he didn't want to "assume" or "accuse" them of anything, he said that there have been a few "unpleasant" instances with the authorities.

"In 2019, the Indian Embassy in Paris sent an email to my boss, saying that they had come to know that I was preparing an anti-India story along the lines of the government not respecting minorities. They desisted me from doing so and accused me of trying to defame the country. However, I was not preparing any such story, and was shocked that such an email can be sent to the free media in a democratic country like India."
Sebastien Farcis to The Quint

'My Wife & I Are Without Jobs'

Farcis said that the MHA's decision has "uprooted" his life in India, which he called his "second homeland", and gravely impacted his family.

Farcis is now back in France with his wife, who is an Indian. He says that his employment status is currently "unclear" and that his wife has not been able to get a job in France either.

"That's where the uprooting takes place – it's my uprooting but it's also hers. My wife barely speaks French; she had to do a crash course in the language in case we had to move away from India. And she has to start from scratch in another country," he told The Quint.

He also says that as an OCI card holder, he is entitled to at least an explanation as to why he was asked to leave the country.

"I have an OCI card because the government acknowledges that I have a bond with my wife and with India. So, the removal of the right to work needs to be at least justified. If there's no justification, we have the right to question it," he said, adding, "I have decided to talk because at the end of the day if we leave silently, they win."

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Second French Journo in 4 Months to Leave 

Farcis is the second French journalist who has had to leave the country in the last four months. Vanessa Dougnac, who had been covering India for the last 20 years for four publications including La Croix, left India in February this year after receiving a notice from the MHA threatening to revoke her OCI status.

Dougnac said that the MHA's notice accused her reportage of being "malicious" and "harming the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India". In September 2022 she had been asked to cease all journalistic work in India.

Dougnac, who came to India around 25 years ago as a student, was one of the senior-most foreign correspondents working in the country. She has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against the government's decision to bar her from working as a reporter in India. The case is sub judice.

While the MHA has not yet sent any such notice to Farcis, the ministry's purported decision comes in the backdrop of some of his articles that may be viewed as being critical of the ruling establishment.

In an article for Radio France Internationale on 23 January this year, Farcis had written that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to officiate at the consecration ceremony of Ayodhya's Ram Mandir went against the secular fabric of India. In the same article, he said that that archaeologists have never been able to prove that the Babri Masjid was built on the site of the birthplace of Lord Rama, and that the Hindu-Muslim divide over the issue had been "exploited" by the BJP in the 1980s and 90s to gain popularity and votes.

In another article he wrote on 25 January, Farcis had claimed that while India is growing at a rate of over 7 percent annually, the growth is "poorly redistributed" and "inequalities are widening" to the detriment of the working class.

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Apart from Dougnac and Farcis, Avani Dias – the South Asia Bureau Chief for Australian broadcasting firm ABC News – had announced in April 2024 that she was forced out of India after the government denied her a visa extension, saying that her reportage had "crossed a line".

Addressing the media on Friday, 21 June, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had condemned a recent documentary by ABC News called 'Spies, Secrets and Threats: How the Modi Regime Targets People Overseas', which features an investigation into an alleged "nest of Indian spies".

"It contains blatant untruths. I would urge you to please have a look at the documentary. It is biased and reflects unprofessional reporting," Jaiswal said without naming the documentary, which features Avani Dias.

In January this year, an ABC News team headed by Dias had visited the ancestral home of slain Sikh extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Punjab and also purportedly met representatives of a pro-Khalistan group in the state to film another documentary called 'Sikhs, Murder and Spies' – which was blocked on YouTube by the Indian government.

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