Pulitzer winner Kashmir journalist says barred from flying abroad | Freedom of the Press News

Sanna Irshad Mattoo told Al Jazeera that she was banned from going to Paris to attend a book launch and photography exhibition.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist from Indian-administered Kashmir said she was banned from traveling abroad by Indian authorities, who did not give a good reason for their refusal.

Sanna Irshad Mattoo told Al Jazeera she is expected to travel to Paris from New Delhi on Saturday for a book launch and photography exhibition as one of 10 winners of the Serendipity Arles Grant 2020.

Mattoo, a resident of Srinagar, won the Pulitzer Prize along with three other members of Reuters news agency for their photos of the COVID-19 crisis in India.

“My flight was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. At immigration, I was pushed aside and asked to wait for three hours. I kept asking the officials about the reason until I missed my flight,” said the 28-year-old journalist.

Mattoo said she was later told she could not fly abroad. “But they offered no explanation,” she said.

“This is crazy, nothing against me. One of the officials told me that I should check the reason from Kashmir from where the directions came. I don’t understand why I got stopped,” Sana told Al Jazeera by phone from New Delhi airport.

“I am very disappointed. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time.”

Mattoo shared a photo of her ticket and passport stamped “Cancelled without prejudice” by Indian immigration officials on Twitter.

Journalists and media watchdogs have criticized the move, calling it “Disturbing pattern”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the Indian government “must immediately end the ban on Kashmiri journalists from traveling abroad”.

“The travel ban is part of a pattern of systematic harassment against Kashmiri journalists, who increasingly face arbitrary arrests, frivolous legal cases, threats, assaults physics and raids since August 2019,” it wrote on Twitter.

In recent years, a number of Indian journalists and activists have alleged that they have been blocked by Indian authorities from leaving the country.

In April this year, Aakar Patel, former leader of Amnesty International in India, said he had stop flying to the United States because of a criminal case filed against the office of the rights defender in India in 2019.

Authorities said Patel was in the “watch ring” of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which prevented a person wanted by law enforcement from flying abroad.

A few days earlier, the famous Indian journalist Rana Ayyub had also forbidden to board the plane her flight to London, where she was scheduled to tackle an event about the targeting of journalists in India. She was then allowed to fly after going to court.

Both Patel and Ayyub have voiced criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

In 2019, Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani accused him of being stopped at New Delhi airport to travel to Europe.

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