By Daniela Gavshon

NEW DELHI - Authorities in India have been denying foreign writers, journalists, academics, and activists access to India for apparently political reasons. The latest case concerns Australian journalist Avani Dias, who left India after the government did not extend her journalist visa until moments before it was due to expire.

Australian journalist Avani Dias left India on April 19 after the government did not extend her journalist visa until moments before it was due to expire – the latest example of foreign writers, journalists, academics, and activists being denied access to India for seemingly political reasons.

Dias, who works for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and had been based in India as their South Asia correspondent, said that Indian officials told her she “crossed a line” after a report on the killing of Canadian Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being involved in Nijjar’s killing, which the Indian government denied. In March, Indian authorities directed the social media platform YouTube to block access to Dias’ report.

Dias said the authorities also denied her necessary accreditation to cover India’s general elections, which began on April 19. Just hours before she was due to leave the country, and following intervention by Australian authorities, the government extended her visa by two months. But she said the government had made it too difficult for her to do her job and left the country.

On April 23, more than 30 foreign correspondents in India wrote an open letter protesting Dias’ case, saying the problems she has faced are not new. “Foreign journalists in India have grappled with increased restrictions on visas and journalism permits,” the letter states. In February, French journalist Vanessa Dougnac left India after authorities issued a notice threatening to cancel her Overseas Citizen of India card, which gives foreign nationals of Indian origin or those married to Indian nationals residency and work permits. Authorities alleged Dougnac, who had worked in India for 22 years, had created a “biased negative perception of India” through her reports.

So far, the Australian government has not made any public statements about the Dias case. Nor have the country’s leaders publicly raised broader human rights concerns with the Indian government. But “quiet diplomacy” by Australia and other countries has proven ineffectual in getting India to reverse the deteriorating human rights situation. As the Dias case shows, governments that stay silent on rights don’t win special protections for their nationals from politically motivated abuse.