New Delhi: The Ministry for Home Affairs has allowed journalist visa holders to travel to India, in a new set of relaxations released Monday.
Foreign nationals holding a J-1 journalist visa, and their dependents, who hold a J-1X visa, are now allowed to enter India, apart from the categories already permitted.
The MHA further stated in its order that all suspended J-1 and J-1X visas would be restored with immediate effect, and if any of the journalists or dependents had their visas expired, they could get a new visa from Indian missions/posts.
However, everybody would have to comply with all quarantine and health travel requirements issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A J-category visa is given to foreign journalists travelling to India for work or for tourism. The visa is usually granted for three months, but can be renewed.
A senior MHA official who did not want to be named said the issue had come to it almost a week ago, and was under consideration.
Issue had blown up
The issue of foreign journalists residing in India not being granted re-entry due to the suspended visa order of 11 March at the start of the Covid crisis, was first raised on 11 August by The Financial Times’ South Asia Bureau chief Amy Kazmin, who wrote an article about it.
“Many Delhi-based foreign correspondents who travelled abroad earlier — to care for ageing parents, attend a funeral or other personal reasons — are now stranded overseas, their pleas to return rebuffed,” wrote Kazmin.
It was then highlighted on 12 August by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who said on Twitter: “Shocked to learn from @amykazmin that India does not grant re-entry privileges to resident foreign journalists, whose visas are suspended if they leave India. Many Delhi-based foreign correspondents are stranded overseas. Reflects poorly on our democracy & respect for free press.”
Shocked to learn from @amykazmin that India does not grant re-entry privileges to resident foreign journalists, whose visas are suspended if they leave India. Many Delhi-based foreign correspondents are stranded overseas. Reflects poorly on our democracy & respect for free press.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 12, 2020
S. Venkat Narayan, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) of South Asia, told ThePrint that the fresh order was forwarded to him by Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Monday evening.
“On behalf of the entire Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia, I am very grateful to the Government of India (Home Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry and External Affairs Ministry) for expediting the process and for their timely action on the matter.”