- Cathal McNaughton is chief photographer at Reuters' Delhi office
- He allegedly went to restricted areas in Jammu and Kashmir without permit
- An Irish national, Mr McNaughton won the Pulitzer prize in May 2018
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist was denied re-entry into India recently for allegedly violating visa rules. Cathal McNaughton, chief photographer at news agency Reuters' Delhi office, was recently sent back from the New Delhi airport after his arrival from an overseas trip.
McNaughton, who won the Pulitzer Prize in May 2018, allegedly travelled to restricted and protected areas in Jammu and Kashmir without permission. He also reported from the state without valid permission.
Mr McNaughton, an Irish national, wrote on Instagram three days ago, "2018 has been interesting. From winning the Pulitzer to being denied entry back into India. The frigid cold of the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics to the stifling heat of the Asian Games in Jakarta... Over the next few days I'll be sharing some highlights and lowlights."
The action against him is not permanent and can be reviewed after six months or a year, a home ministry official told NDTV.
"Everybody has to follow law. For violation, the consequence is the same for everybody. Foreigners should respect Indian law. If any Indian visits abroad and violates the law of that country, he or she is also liable to be punished," the official said.
"He may be a winner of some awards, but that does not give him the licence to violate Indian laws. The Ministry of External Affairs regularly informs foreign journalists about Indian rules and regulations. And in certain places, a foreigner is required to take permission. If you violate these rules and regulations, we are bound to take action," the official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
"If somebody is denied entry, it does not mean that he is blacklisted forever. It may be reviewed after six months or one year," he said.
Another official said foreign correspondents also require prior approval from the home ministry to film in restricted and protected areas such as border districts, defence installations and other places of strategic importance, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
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 and Kashmir or the North Eastern States, should apply for a special permit through the Ministry of External Affairs (External Publicity Division)".
Under normal circumstances, India grants foreign journalists visas for up to three months. In rare cases, a six-month journalist visa, with a single or double entry, can be issued.
The home ministry and the foreign ministry have also held discussions to review protocols on foreign journalists. In May this year, the foreign ministry reminded international journalists based in India that they require permission to travel to areas protected under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958.
The restricted areas are, Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Himachal Pradesh, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan, all of Sikkim and parts of Uttarakhand.
(With inputs from PTI)