New Delhi, Dec 28: All foreigners have to respect Indian law and those found in violation are liable to be punished but that does not mean they are blacklisted forever, a Home Ministry official said on Friday after a Reuters journalist was denied entry into India for allegedly violating visa rules.
The action against Cathal McNaughton, chief photographer at the news agency’s Delhi office who was recently sent back from the airport here after his arrival from an overseas trip, is not permanent and can be reviewed after six months or a year, the official said.
“Everybody has to follow law. For violation, the consequence is the same for everybody. Foreigners should respect Indian law. If any Indian visits abroad and violates the law of that country, he or she is also liable to be punished,” the official said.
McNaughton, an Irish national who won the Pulitzer Prize in May 2018, allegedly travelled to restricted and protected areas in Jammu and Kashmir without permission. He also reported from the state without valid permission.
“He may be a winner of some awards, but that does not give him the licence to violate Indian laws. The Ministry of External Affairs regularly informs foreign journalists about Indian rules and regulations. And in certain places, a foreigner is required to take permission. If you violate these rules and regulations, we are bound to take action,” the official warned.
“If somebody is denied entry, it does not mean that he is blacklisted forever. It may be reviewed after six months or one year,” he said.
Another official said foreign correspondents also require prior home ministry approval to film in restricted and protected areas such as border districts, defence installations and other places of strategic importance, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
According to visa rules for foreign journalists, “A foreign journalist, TV cameraperson etc, including a foreign journalist already based in India, who desires to visit a restricted or protected area or Jammu and Kashmir or the North Eastern States, should apply for a special permit through the Ministry of External Affairs (External Publicity Division)”.
Under normal circumstances, India grants foreign journalists visas for up to three months. In rare cases, a six-month journalist visa, with a single or double entry, can be issued.
The MHA and the MEA have also held discussions to review protocols on foreign journalists. In May this year, the MEA reminded foreign journalists based in India that they require permission to travel to areas protected under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958.
The areas are — all of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Himachal Pradesh, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan, all of Sikkim and parts of Uttarakhand.