The Centre denied entry to an India-based Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist when he returned to the country earlier this year, The Indian Express reported on Friday. Reuters chief photographer for India Cathal McNaughton was accused of violating visa conditions, and was sent back from the Delhi airport when he returned from an overseas trip, even though he had a valid visa, the report said.
The newspaper did not specify when the incident took place. However, the Reuters photo directory shows that McNaughton last posted a picture from India on May 24, six days before he won the Pulitzer Prize in New York. Most of his photos since then have been from the United States. McNaughton also has not posted a tweet since June 1, and his bio still identifies him as the chief India photographer for Reuters.
Unidentified officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs told the newspaper that McNaughton had visited restricted areas in Jammu and Kashmir without valid permission. “He was not charged with violation of visa rules but was denied entry,” an unidentified government official said.
Looking back at the year in an Instagram post on December 26, McNaughton had written: “2018 has been interesting. From winning the Pulitzer to being denied entry back into India.” He said he would share “highlights and lowlights” from the year in the next few days. He has not responded to queries from The Indian Express about the claim.
According to visa rules, foreign journalists and camerapersons, including those already based in India, should apply for a special permit to visit restricted or protected areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the North Eastern states.
All foreigners have to respect Indian law and those found violating it are liable to be punished, PTI quoted an unidentified Home Ministry official as saying. The official added that the action against McNaughton is not permanent and can be reviewed after six months or a year.
“Everybody has to follow law. For violation, the consequence is the same for everybody,” the official said. “If any Indian visits abroad and violates the law of that country, he or she is also liable to be punished.”
The Home Ministry official said winning awards does not give McNaughton the licence to violate laws. “The Ministry of External Affairs regularly informs foreign journalists about Indian rules and regulations,” he said. “And in certain places, a foreigner is required to take permission. If you violate these rules and regulations, we are bound to take action.”
McNaughton was one of the seven-member Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their series documenting the violence faced by Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community and their mass exodus to Bangladesh since August 2017.
According to his Instagram timeline, McNaughton was in Delhi on May 24, 2018 when he posted pictures in the national Capital taken on that day. He was in New York on May 30, 2018, to attend the Pulitzer Prize ceremony. He was in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2018 to cover protests that followed the alleged rape and murder of a child in Kathua.