"India can speak to its own visa policy": US on Australian journalist's claims not allowed to cover elections

World Friday 26/April/2024 07:17 AM
"India can speak to its own visa policy": US on Australian journalist's claims not allowed to cover elections

Washington, DC: The US on Thursday rebuked a Pakistani reporter's questions on allegations of an Australian journalist's claims not allowed to cover Indian general elections and said that the country determines which non-citizens it allows to enter, either as short-term travellers or international journalists.

Responding to a question by a Pakistani reporter on allegations of denial of visa renewal to Australian journalist, Avani Dias, US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said, "The Government of India can speak to its own visa policy. That's not something I'm going to opine on from here."

Patel further emphasised the role of the free press in the fabric of democracy.

"Broadly, we have been clear with countries around the world about the integral role that a free press plays in the fabric of democracy. That's why we come up here and take questions regularly. But I will let the officials in India speak," he said.
Avani Dias, an Australian journalist claimed that she was not allowed to cover the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and was compelled to leave the country, however, the sources highlighted that her claims are "not correct, misleading and mischievous."

However, sources said that Avani Dias, South Asia Correspondent of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was also found to have violated visa rules while undertaking her professional pursuits while "undertaking her professional pursuits."

Meanwhile, at her request, Dias was assured that her visa would be extended for the coverage of the general elections.

Moreover, the sources emphasised that Avani's claims about not being permitted to cover elections are also factually incorrect, adding that covering election activities outside of booths is permitted to all visa-holder journalists.

During the press briefing, Patel also denied making any remark on the internal investigation report by the Indian Government on the alleged assassination plot of Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

He said, "I'm not aware of the report that you're referencing. This is ultimately a Department of Justice matter and I will defer to them and let them speak to this."

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is an India-designated terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship. He has repeatedly issued threats against India.

As per the US Justice Department indictment, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, who is currently in custody, has been charged with the murder-for-hire of Pannun. The US Justice Department had claimed that an Indian government employee, who was not identified in the indictment filed, had recruited Gupta to hire a hitman to allegedly assassinate Pannun, which was foiled by US authorities.