India blacklists DR journalists

Controversial TV documentary series about textile industry causes India to deny visas to reporters from the public broadcaster

In what members of parliament are calling a serious violation of freedom of speech, India has implemented a practice of not issuing visas to any reporter working for public broadcaster DR.

The Indian Embassy in Copenhagen confirmed to Jyllands-Posten newspaper that its door is closed to reporters from the state-funded corporation.

“We had a very bad experience with DR, so they are excluded,” a spokesman who declined to be named said. “All other Danish journalists are welcome.”

India’s problems with DR stem from its programme “Blod, sved og T-Shirts” (Blood, Sweat and T-shirts).

The 2010 show followed a group of young Danes sent to India to work in the textile industry. Episodes showed the group living in squalid conditions, arguing with employers to get their wages and struggling to get enough cash together to purchase a few pieces of fruit for breakfast. The BBC had done a similar programme a few years earlier, but there have been no reports of reprisals against its employees.

Although the recording of the programme took place some time ago, the Indian Embassy said that DR’s exclusion would not end any time soon.

“It will take some time. At the moment, we have not decided to let them back in.”

Elisabeth Geday, DRÂ’s head of communication and human resources, said she first became aware of the problem late last year. She declined to elaborate on the specific nature of the trouble between India and DR.

“I don’t know all of the details. We are working with the Foreign Ministry, so I can’t say too much. We are hopeful that a solution will be found.”

Jeppe Kofoed, spokesman for Socialdemokraterne, said that it becomes a “matter of principle” when journalists are denied access to a country with which Denmark has otherwise good relations.

“It is not acceptable to keep out political journalists,” said Kofoed. “This is a restriction of the media and freedom of expression and is serious situation which we must address.”

Per Stig Møller, the Konservative foreign affairs spokesman and a former foreign minister, believes that India’s actions are undemocratic and violate agreements between the two countries.

“We must protest. It must be made clear to India that they do not have the right to impede the freedom of the press.”

He said that as a democratic country, India must be willing to accept the scrutiny of a free press.

“They have a right to be dissatisfied, but they should either refute DR’s claims or report them to the Pressenævnet [Danish press council, ed].”

The Foreign Ministry said that it was looking into the matter and declined to comment.

The is the second diplomatic tiff between India and Denmark this year. This summer, India froze relations between the two countries after an Eastern High Court ruling prevented confessed gunrunner Niels Holck, aka Kim Davy, from being extradited to stand trial.