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Authorities stall press visa for "overly critical" German journalist

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders urges the Indian government to issue a press visa to Hasnain Kazim, a German journalist of Indian origin, so that he can base himself in India as the German weekly "Der Spiegel"'s correspondent. Indian diplomats have acknowledged verbally to German officials that the failure to approve the visa request he made five months ago is linked to the fact that his articles are regarded as "overly critical and biased."

"We are dismayed to learn that the Indian authorities have again refused to issue a press visa to a journalist employed by a respected news organisation," Reporters Without Borders said. "Excuses have been made about the time needed to process an application but the reality is that the Indian government has not liked some of this experienced journalist's reports and wants to prevent him from returning to India."

The press freedom organisation added: "There is an urgent need for the government to scrap this archaic practice of banning certain foreign journalists from visiting the country. Dozens of journalists have encountered this problem of late."

Employed by Spiegel Online since February 2006, Kazim wanted to move to New Delhi in May in order to set up there as the South Asia correspondent of both Spiegel Online and "Der Spiegel". He previously visited India in November to cover the Mumbai terrorist attacks, writing several articles (,1518,593647,00.html ) that won him a nomination for the CNN Journalist Award 2009.

The press visa application that he submitted on 7 April 2009 to the Indian consulate in Hamburg was immediately passed on to the New Delhi. Indian diplomats subsequently accused him of "hostile" coverage. They also said his reporting from Mumbai had been "illegal". He has still not received a response to the application.

Spiegel Online editor Mathias Müller von Blumencron, who has met with the Indian ambassador to Berlin to discuss the case, told Reporters Without Borders: "The irony is that Hasnain Kazim's family had to fight to be accepted in Germany and now he is being rejected by his country of origin. We find this very sad. He is one of our most brilliant online reporters and we still do not understand why the Indian government is refusing to give him a visa."

The personal belongings of Kazim and his family were searched by Indian customs and retained for three months before being sent back to Germany.

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