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Step against journalist Aatish Taseer part of Indian, global trend to 'harass' writers

By Our Representative
A New York-based free expression advocacy non-profit, PEN America, has taken strong exception to what it calls “India’s government is retaliating against journalist Aatish Taseer’s reporting critical of the country’s Prime Minister". Taseer has been told by an email from the Consulate General of India in New York that the Government of India had cancelled his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI card) with “effective immediately.”
Calling it “retaliation for a ‘Time’ magazine article critical of the Indian government”, journalist and writer Taseer was earlier threatened with revocation of the key citizenship document that would limit his ability to work and live in India. In a statement, PEN America said it was a “worrying move by the government to punish a reporter for coverage critical of Narendra Modi.”
In May, amidst a contentious Indian election season, Taseer had penned a cover story profiling Modi for "Time" headlined “India’s Divider in Chief.” The story “drew online harassment and an official complaint from India’s consul general to ‘Time’ magazine”, PEN said, adding, “In September, he received notice that the Indian government intended to revoke his OCI) documentation.”
That status allows foreign citizens of Indian heritage to live and work in India indefinitely – Taseer was born to an Indian mother, well-known journalist Tavleen Singh and Pakistani politician and businessman Salmaan Taseer, assassinated at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad because he disagreed with Taseer's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law. Aatish Taseer, 38, was born in Britain and has divided his time between New York and New Delhi.
PEN said, “Once granted, the OCI card can only be cancelled under limited circumstances whose narrow criteria have not been met in this case. If an individual’s card is canceled, they can also be placed on a blacklist preventing their future entry into India. Taseer responded to the notice but never received an official reply from the Home Ministry.”
Murders of leading thinkers and writers Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh have yet to be fully investigated
“However, PEN said, “On November 7, the Ministry announced in a series of tweets that Taseer had hidden information about his late father’s nationality and had failed to challenge their notice; Taseer disputes both claims.” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programmes at PEN America commented, “Harassing critical writers and journalists not just in India but globally is a disturbing new low for Modi’s government that’s already put Indian democracy on its heels.” 
Karlekar added, “Revoking Aatish Taseer’s citizenship document – which would in effect also ban him from visiting his childhood home and seeing his mother and grandmother – is a cruelly personal and vindictive way to punish a journalist for their critical coverage. We call on the Indian government to cease their judicial harassment of Taseer immediately and allow him to keep his OCI card.” 
PEN continued, “Threats to free expression and political dissent in India have been building steadily in recent years. As noted in PEN International’s 2016 report ‘Fearful Silence: The Chill on India’s Public Sphere’, the environment for free expression has deteriorated under the present government, with authorities regularly using legal cases and other regulatory mechanisms to curb dissenting views.’
The top NGO underlined, “Those who advocate for human rights or express unorthodox viewpoints are sometimes subject to arrest, prosecution, and other forms of legal intimidation, and recent cases of murders of leading journalists, thinkers, and writers, such as Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh, have yet to be fully investigated or prosecuted.”

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