The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned to learn that journalists from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, assigned to participate in a workshop on environmental journalism in the Indian port city of Tuticorin, were denied visas by the Indian Government.
According to information from IFJ partner organisations, four journalists from each of these countries had to cancel their participation in the workshop at the last minute after being told that they would not be granted visas to travel to India.
The workshop was scheduled to be conducted between October 26 and November 6 in the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) in Tuticorin, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Institute for the Continuing Education of Journalists (known by its acronym, FOJO) – a body promoted by journalists’ unions and associations in Sweden – had committed funding for the workshop.
The SDMRI is a centre for advanced research which, according to its website, is accredited with a publicly-funded university in Tamil Nadu. It has been recognised by the University Grants Commission which oversees all higher education in India, and has been appointed to an expert panel of the Government of India to monitor the environmental impact of a major coastal shipping project.
Inquiries by the IFJ with India’s Ministry of External Affairs have not provided any clarity on the reasons for the visa refusal for the Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi journalists, except the remote possibility that they may have been in breach of the norms laid down for foreign participants attending conferences and seminars in India.
“The IFJ is very disappointed at this incident and calls upon the Indian authorities to rethink their visa policy for journalists from neighbouring countries,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“As the pivotal country in South Asia, with the best developed media and highly-diversified training institutions, we expect India to be more transparent and magnanimous in its attitude toward journalists from neighbouring countries.”