Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has asked the Indian government to issue a press visa to German journalist Hasnain Kazim to report for Der Spiegel weekly. But Indian government sources said the journalist was guilty of "gross violation of visa norms" and had "misused" his visa during his previous visit.
In a statement, the media body said Indian diplomats in Germany had told German officials that his visa request five months ago had been denied because his articles were regarded as "overly critical and biased".
The Indian-origin journalist, who has worked with the German magazine since February 2006, had visited India in November to cover the Mumbai terrorist attacks. His articles won him a nomination for the CNN Journalists Award 2009.
Kazim submitted his press visa application to the Indian consulate in Hamburg in April to be based in New Delhi as the South Asia correspondent for the online section of the German magazine.
"We are dismayed to learn that the Indian authorities have again refused to issue a press visa to a journalist employed by a respected news organisation," Reporters Without Borders said.
"Excuses have been made about the time needed to process an application but the reality is that the Indian government has not liked some of this experienced journalist's reports and wants to prevent him from returning to India.
"There is an urgent need for the government to scrap this archaic practice of banning certain foreign journalists from visiting the country. Dozens of journalists have encountered this problem of late," the Montreal-based media freedom body said.
The media watchdog said his press visa application was immediately passed to the New Delhi, which was still to respond.
But Indian diplomats accused him of "hostile" coverage, adding that his reporting from Mumbai was "illegal", it said.
An Indian official, contacted by IANS, said as per his information the journalist had come on a tourist visa to Mumbai last year and had stayed on to report from there, an action that construed "serious violation" of visa rules in force internationally.
The official, who could not be identified as per official rules, said Der Spiegel had also, in a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs, admitted wrongdoing by its journalist who had come to India on a short-term tourist visa but then began reporting for his publication.
Spiegel Online editor Mathias Muller von Blumencron, who met with the Indian ambassador to Berlin, was quoted as saying: "The irony is that Hasnain Kazim's family had to fight to be accepted in Germany and now he is being rejected by his country of origin.
"We find this very sad. He is one of our most brilliant online reporters and we still do not understand why the Indian government is refusing to give him a visa."
The statement alleged that the personal belongings of Kazim and his family were searched by Indian customs and retained for three months before being sent back to Germany.