US journalist working on Vedanta controversy deported

US journalist working on Vedanta controversy deported

Mark Scialla. Photo: Twitter

Mark Scialla, a US-based freelance journalist who was working on stories related to the Sterlite Copper controversy in Thoothukudi, was deported to his country on Wednesday for violating the conditions imposed in his tourist visa.

Scialla, who met villagers in and around the Sterlite Copper smelter on December 28 and 29 in connection with his articles and a short film regarding the controversy surrounding the Vedanta-owned company, was questioned on December 30 for a few hours by Thoothukudi police.

“Since he (Scialla) admitted that he was not in Thoothukudi for tourist purpose, we had to deport him. He was on a tourist visa but was conducting interviews with villagers here in connection with his short-film and articles. This is a clear violation of conditions imposed in tourist visa,” Murali Rambha, superintendent of police, Thoothukudi district, told DH.

Scialla, who left Thoothukudi and reached Madurai on Tuesday night, took a flight back to the US from Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The freelance journalist was forced to leave the port city after Rambha, in his capacity as the district foreigners registration officer, signed his deportation order.

Scialla is an independent writer and video journalist covering environmental conflict and social issues who had earlier worked for organisations like Al-Jazeera.

Rambha said he has also recommended blacklisting of the journalist and a communication has been sent to the foreigners regional registration office in Chennai for violating the visa conditions.

“Scialla himself admitted that he had come here related to his work though his visa clearly says that he should not embark on any work except tourist activities,” the district SP said.

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

Rambha said that an inquiry to find out whether the freelance journalist had any links with any organisation is on and added that nearly half-a-dozen people who helped him in Thoothukudi have so far been questioned.

“Two more people have been summoned to appear tomorrow,” he said.

Sources said that Scialla was working on stories related to the struggle against Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi.

The plant was shut in May 2018 after protests turned bloody with 13 people losing their lives in police firing. However, the NGT has ordered opening of the plant which has now been challenged in the Supreme Court.