PIO journalist Avani Dias claims she was forced to leave India; govt sources call it “mischievous”

Australian journalist Avani Dias claimed today that she was not allowed to cover the general elections in India and was compelled to leave the country. But government sources said that her allegation was incorrect and misleading.

Journalist Avani Dias
Avani Dias, an Australian journalist of Indian origin, claims she was denied a visa extension to cover the general elections in India, but government sources say that her visa extension was approved on the same day when she paid the requisite fee. Photo courtesy: X/@AvaniDias

Dias, a person of Indian origin and the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), left India on April 19. She claimed today that she was denied a visa extension by the Government of India because her reports were seen to have “crossed a line”.

She wrote on the social network X today: “Last week, I had to leave India abruptly. The Modi Government told me my visa extension would be denied, saying my reporting ‘crossed a line’. After Australian Government intervention, I got a mere two-month extension… less than 24 hours before my flight.

“We were also told my election accreditation would not come through because of an Indian Ministry directive. We left on day one of voting in the national election in what Modi calls ‘the mother of democracy.’”

Refuting these allegations, government sources said that Dias was found to have violated visa rules while undertaking her professional pursuits.

In spite of this, on her request, she was assured that her visa would be extended for the coverage of the general elections, the sources said, adding that her previous visa was valid till April 20.

“The contention of Avani Dias, the South Asia Correspondent of Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she was not allowed to cover elections [in India] and was compelled to leave the country is not correct, misleading and mischievous,” said a source.

The government sources said that Dias paid the visa extension fee on April 18 — with just two days left on the validity of the previous visa — and her visa was extended till the end of June 2024 the same day.

The Australian journalist, however, chose to leave India on April 20, said the sources. At the time of her departure, she held a valid visa and her visa extension also stood approved, they added.

Her point about not being given permission to cover elections was also factually incorrect, the sources said.

Coverage of election activities outside of booths was permitted to all Journalist Visa holders, they said. “Authority letters are required only for access to [the inside of] polling booths and counting stations. This, however, cannot be processed while the visa extension is under process,” a source clarified.

“It is pertinent to note that other ABC correspondents — Meghna Bali and Som Patidar — have already received their letters,” the source added.