From now onwards, the foreign journalists, who have been working as correspondents based in India and working for foreign media houses would no longer be able to travel border States including Jammu and Kashmir and many places in the Northeast without taking ‘prior permission’.
A report published by The Indian Express on July 22, 2018, quoting sources stated that the rule has existed for about 60 years and it is “not new”. The report quoted the sources in the Government as saying, “On average, we get (reports of) two violations per week from intelligence agencies or local authorities — that they have come across foreign journalists travelling to protected and reserved areas without permission. So we decided to write to the foreign correspondents and make them aware of the rule, so that they don’t end up in trouble.”
The report further quoting the sources as saying that if the MHA publishes the names of protected and restricted areas clearly, it would resolve the issue to a great extent. “The ministry should also give approvals (to journalists) in a short span of time, and not take eight weeks,” a source in the government said.
The report quoted a foreign journalist as saying, “We can imagine having to take permission to areas near the Line of Control and such sensitive areas, but having to take permission to travel to Srinagar – that’s a new restriction.”
It may be mentioned that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is the nodal interface from the Central Government side with foreign journalists, while rules are framed and decisions taken by the MHA.
The foreign correspondents’ community got the MEA letter on May 22, stating that it was addressing the “important issue” of foreign journalists travelling to circumscribed areas “without official clearance”.
“It has come to the notice of the Ministry of External Affairs that some foreign journalists based in India, while discharging their journalistic activities or for tourism purposes, have travelled to places which come under restricted/protected areas that require prior permission/special permit,” the MEA letter stated, adding, “Travel to these protected/restricted areas without prior approval/special permission may cause unnecessary access related issues resulting in inconvenience for the journalist.”
The letter also mentioned the Bureau of Immigration’s webpage, which listed out the protected and restricted areas. The protected areas include “parts” of Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, J&K, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, and the whole state of Sikkim and Nagaland.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands and parts of Sikkim are within restricted areas.