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ABC journalist Avani Dias returned to Australia due to a new job and wedding, not because of any intimidation by Indian govt: Australian media

Avani Dias booked her flights to Sydney on April 12, 2024, six days before paying the visa fee. Her visa was extended on the same date on 18 April.

In an update to the controversy revolving around anti-India journalist Avani Dias, it has come to the fore that the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) News, Dias returned to Australia due to her new job and wedding, and not due to any alleged intimidation by the Indian government. As per an exclusive report by ‘The Australia Today’, her new job opportunity which she obtained in June 2023, and her wedding ceremony which happened in December 2023 made her go back to Australia, and not due to any political pressure.

On April 23, the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) News, Avani Dias, took to X (formerly Twitter) to claim that she had to leave India abruptly as the Modi government told her an extension of her visa would be denied as her reporting had “crossed a line”.

The controversial ‘journalist’ also claimed that the Indian government had plans to not allow her accreditation to cover the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Dias claimed that her visa was extended for 2 months at the last minute, following which she went back to Australia.

She lamented returning to her home country just a day before the first phase of the elections in India. Thereafter, her employer ABC News published a controversial article (archive) claiming that Dias received a phone call from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and was notified about the denial of her visa extension.

The publication said that MEA informed the ‘journalist’ that she crossed a line with her propaganda-laden YouTube video, which suggested that India was somehow involved in the assassination of Canada-based Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Das applied for a new job at ‘Four Corners’ in May 2023

However, as per the report by Australia today, Dias applied as a reporter at ABC News’ flagship program ‘Four Corners’ on 1 May 2023. She applied for this program as she was tired and troubled with her responsibilities as South Asia Correspondent in New Delhi. The Four Corner bosses, impressed by her Twitter fight with Indians supporting PM Modi and the BJP, hired her in June 2023.

But, the Editor of International News with ABC refused to release Dias until she was replaced with a new digital and video journalist in New Delhi. Therefore, she had to remain in Delhi till her replacement was found. Notably, Dias was released only after Meghna Bali was appointed as New Delhi correspondent of ABC on 28 September 2023.

That was one of the major reasons why Dias returned to Australia, as per Australia Today. Meanwhile, the other crucial reason is her wedding.

Walked down the aisle in December 2023

As per the report, Dias applied for leave from October 2023 to January 2024 for personal reasons which included her marriage. After obtaining her new job, Avani Dias travelled to Sydney to confer with her family and partner before deciding on a wedding date. Avani walked down the aisle in a traditional Sri Lankan wedding ceremony during the first week of December 2023.

On December 3, 2023, she broke the news on Instagram saying, “We were so moved during the traditional Sri Lankan ceremony, as we said our vows to each other, and while we listened to the speeches.”

Later she also went on her honeymoon in the first week of January 2024 at the Maldives and returned right before the inauguration ceremony of Shri Ram’s birthplace Temple in Ayodhya. She misreported an event and attempted to portray the Pran Prathistha ceremony of Ram Mandir as a ‘Hindu supremacist’ event. Avani Dias conveniently skipped the history of Ram Mandir and its destruction by the Islamic invader Babur in 1526.

“There was a mosque there, the Babri Majid Mosque. It was built in the 16th century. And in 1992, Hindu right-wing mobs stormed this town and they climbed over the brick walls of the mosque and they demolished it with their bare hands, with axes, with hammers. It was a really dark period in India’s history and that led to nationwide riots,” she was heard saying.

The controversial ‘journalist’ also claimed that the reconstruction of the Ram Mandir was aimed at undermining the ‘secular ethos’ of this nation.

Dias also had a history of spreading disinformation about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – a humanitarian law that aims to fast-track the citizenship process of persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh who have been illegally staying in India on or before 31st December 2014. A detailed report about her propaganda and misreporting can be read here.

As per the Australia Today report, “the Editor of International News had a confidential report from the ABC India team that Avani Dias had burnt bridges and made the relationship with most stakeholders toxic.”

Dias was not forced, but she “chose” to return to Australia in spite of visa approval

Regarding her visa, the Australia Today report stated that the J1 Visa for foreign journalists issued to Dias was extended by the Indian authorities on 18th April, the day she paid the visa fee. The visa was extended till June 2024. After her visa was issued, Avani’s boss asked her to remain in India to cover the Indian parliament election but left the option up to her, and she chose to return.

However, it is vital to note that Avani booked her return flights to Sydney on April 12, 2024, six days before paying the visa fee. But on 23 April 2023, Dias posted an X statement saying that she was forced to leave India abruptly as the Modi government allegedly told her an extension of her visa would be denied as her reporting had “crossed a line”.

As per the Australia Today report, the claim that MEA officials called her to inform that her visa extension will be denied is completely false, and no such call was made. “We don’t make phone calls to visa applicants with no exceptions,” an MEA official based in Delhi told AT.

Responding to this claim, Geeta Mohan, a journalist with India Today, took to X to report that Avani Dias, the South Asia Bureau Chief of ABC News had lied against the Indian government. Geeta Mohan quoted sources saying that the Australian journalist’s claim that she was forced to leave the nation and was not permitted to cover elections was incorrect, misleading, and mischievous.

Debunking the falsehoods propagated by ABC News’s South Asia Bureau Chief, the India Today journalist informed that Dias was found to have violated visa rules while undertaking her professional endeavours. She added that despite this, she was informed that her visa would be extended at her request for the coverage of the Lok Sabha elections.

She was given an extension until the end of June for her previous visa, which was valid until April 20, 2024. The day Dias paid the visa fee, that is on April 18, 2024, was when the process of granting visa extension was completed. Geeta Mohan stated that Dias did, however, opt to leave India on April 20th and that at that time, her visa was very much valid and her request for an extension stood approved.

“Coverage of election activities outside of booths is permitted to all Journalist Visa holders. Authority letters are required only for access to polling booths and counting stations. This, however, cannot be processed while the visa extension is under process,” the India Today journalist wrote, further confirming how other ABC correspondents – Meghna Bali and Som Patidar – had already received their letters.

30 foreign correspondents protest for Dias whose claims are mischievous

Notably, after Dias’ X post against the Indian government, 30 foreign correspondents signed a protest letter in favour of Dias saying that she was forced out of India during the elections. The letter claimed that Dias has been covering India since January 2022 and after her reporting on Khalistanis, her Visa renewal became difficult. She was told she had “crossed a line”, the letter claimed. Furthermore, the letter said though her Visa was extended for two months at the last moment, Dias was categorically told “she would not receive accreditation to cover the election”. 

Interestingly, the 30 journalists who wrote the open letter narrated the same story Avani Dias and ABC News narrated. It appears they did not bother to factually check the statements before writing the open letter. Given the exclusive report by Australia Today, India Today journalist, and earlier reports by OpIndia, it is evident that the claims laid down by the South Asia Bureau Chief of ABC News are incorrect, misleading, and mischievous.

Inexperienced, lacks depth

The Australia Today report begins the report by calling Avani Dias an inexperienced Sri Lankan-Australian journalist. As per the report, one of the foreign correspondents working in India told The Australia Today that “whatever little interaction I had with Avani, she lacked the depth to be reporting in a complex country like India.”

Dias had no political, parliamentary or international affairs reporting experience before joining as South Asia Correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and she worked as a presenter of the current affairs program “Hack” on Triple J before that.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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