US Journo Reporting Sterlite Story in Violation of Visa, Sent Back

A US-based freelance journalist left India on Wednesday, 2 January, a day after authorities in Tamil Nadu ordered his deportation for working on the Sterlite issue in violation of his tourist visa conditions, an official said.

Mark Scialla, who arrived in Tamil Nadu on 27 December last, boarded a flight to the US from Hyderabad on Wednesday morning, Tuticorin district Superintendent of Police Murali Rambha, who issued the deportation order in his capacity as the district foreigners registration officer, said.

The official also said steps had been initiated to blacklist the journalist and a communication was being sent to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office in Chennai in view of "violation" of the visa conditions by him.

After arriving in the country on a tourist visa, Scialla had interviewed several people in Tuticorin on 28 and 29 December on alleged health issues faced by them due to the now-closed Sterlite copper plant.

Rambha said the visa clearly stated that the American national should not embark on any work except tourist activities.

"“Yet he violated it. He did not come here for tourism purposes... I am just sending the recommendation (for blacklisting) to the FRRO.”" - Tuticorin Superintendent of Police Murali Rambha to PTI

After a thorough inquiry, it was concluded that Scialla had violated the visa norm and he was served a notice on Tuesday to leave the country immediately, the SP said.

The officer said questioning of some local activists in connection with the journalist's Tamil Nadu visit would be concluded soon.

Once blacklisted, a foreigner’s visa application will not be processed for a stipulated period of time, officials said.

Also Read: TN Govt Moves to SC Against NGT’s Order to Reopen Sterlite Plant 

The journalist, during his stay in Tuticorin, had posed questions to local people on the "health issues" they faced before and after the closure of Sterlite's copper plant.

He had also met an injured person in the 22-23 May police firing after the protests against Sterlite over pollution concerns turned violent in Tuticorin. Thirteen people were killed in the firing.

When contacted, a US Consulate spokesperson in Tamil Nadu had said, "We are aware of media reports concerning the American citizen. However, due to privacy laws, we do not comment on matters involving US citizens."

According to Scialla’s Twitter handle, he is an "independent writer and video journalist covering environmental conflict and social issues."

After the violent protests, the state government had ordered the permanent closure of the Sterlite plant, part of the mining major Vedanta group.

On 15 December, the National Green Tribunal set aside the closure order of the state government, saying it was "non-sustainable" and "unjustified".

Also Read: CBI Begins Probe in Thoothukudi Anti-Sterlite Deaths

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