Pulitzer-winning Reuters journalist denied entry into India for traveling into ‘protected areas of J&K’

Srinagar: A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, working as Chief Photographer with global news agency Reuters at its Delhi office, has been denied entry back into India for alleged violation of visa conditions.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials said that McNaughton “violated visa conditions by travelling to restricted and protected areas in Jammu and Kashmir without permission”. Sources told The Indian Express that when McNaughton was sent back from Delhi airport — he was returning from an overseas trip — he had a “valid visa” to enter India.

McNaughton’s timeline on Instagram shows he was in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2018 and had covered protests following the rape and murder of a minor in Kathua.

In a photograph of stone pelters, posted on Instagram, he wrote, “A protester throws rubble at Indian police during a protest against the killing in Kashmir, April 13, 2018”. He also posted pictures taken at the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar.

In another Instagram message summing up his work in 2018, posted on December 26, McNaughton wrote, “2018 has been interesting. From winning the Pulitzer to being denied entry back into India. The frigid cold of Pyeonchang Winter Olympics to the stifling heat of the Asian games in Jakarta. Finally the theater of the Whitehouse and the tragedy of a mass shooting in Pittsburgh. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some highlights and low lights.”

An e-mail query sent to McNaughton and to Reuters went unanswered. According to his Twitter and Instagram bio, McNaughton still identifies himself as Reuters Chief Photographer, India. McNaughton’s Instagram timeline reveals he was in Delhi and posted pictures taken on May 24, 2018. On May 31, 2018, he posted a snapshot on his Instagram page showing he attended the Pulitzer ceremony in New York held on May 30, 2018.

Home ministry officials alleged that McNaughton had visited restricted areas in Jammu and Kashmir but also reported from the region without valid permission. “He was not charged with violation of visa rules but was denied entry,” said a government official.

According to visa rules for foreign journalists, “A foreign journalist, TV cameraperson etc, including a foreign journalist already based in India, who desires to visit a restricted or protected area or Jammu & Kashmir or the North Eastern States, should apply for a special permit through the Ministry of External Affairs (External Publicity Division).”

An MHA official added that foreign correspondents also require prior Home Ministry approval to film in restricted and protected areas such as border districts, defence installations and other places of strategic importance, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Under normal circumstances, India grants foreign journalists visa for up to three months, but in rare cases, a six-month journalist visa, with a single or double entry, can be issued, said sources.

After McNaugton was denied re-entry, MHA and MEA held discussions to review protocols on foreign journalists. In May this year, the MEA reminded foreign journalists based in India that they require permission to travel to areas protected under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958. On this list: all of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Himachal Pradesh, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan, all of Sikkim and parts of Uttarakhand.

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