Conflicts & War

Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri journalist stopped from flying to the US

Srinagar, India, Oct 19 (EFE).- A Pulitzer-winning female journalist from India-administered Kashmir has been stopped from flying to the United States by immigration officers at the Delhi airport.

The journalist, Sanna Irshad Mattoo, alleged that the immigration authorities declined to give her any reason for being barred from leaving the country, despite holding a valid passport and US visa.

Mattoo, 28, was awarded the Pulitzer for the Covid-19 pandemic coverage and was on her way to attend the award ceremony in New York on Tuesday.

“I was on my way to receive the Pulitzer award in New York but I was stopped at immigration at Delhi airport and barred from traveling internationally despite holding a valid US visa and ticket,” Mattoo tweeted.

The freelance photojournalist was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for its coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.

Immigration authorities earlier stopped her from traveling to Paris in July.

India’s rank fell from 142 in 2021 to 150 out of 180 countries on the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, mainly because of punitive action against journalists in the disputed Kashmir region.

Authorities have stopped several Kashmiri activists and journalists from traveling abroad since the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Himalayan region in August 2019.

In September 2019, Kashmiri journalist-author Gowhar Geelani was stopped at the New Delhi airport from flying to Germany.

“I was to participate in a training program and sign a contract with the German news outlet Deutsche Welle,” Geelani told EFE.

Journalist Zahid Rafiq was also stopped by immigration officials at the Delhi airport in September last year when, according to him, he was leaving for the US to begin a teaching fellowship at Cornell University.

Aakash Hassan, another Kashmiri journalist, was barred from boarding his flight to Colombo in July this year.

The Indian authorities have also launched a widespread crackdown on Kashmiri journalists, alleging threats to national security.

Several were summoned to police stations and even named in cases under anti-terror laws over the past three years.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 35 journalists in Indian-controlled Kashmir have faced police interrogation, raids, threats, physical assaults, or fabricated criminal cases for their reporting since 2019.

However, journalists say the number is much higher because most of such incidents go unreported.

Experts believe that since August 2019, the Indian government has been trying to tailor a narrative on the disputed Kashmir to its liking.

They allege that the authorities have exercised unprecedented control over the local media outlets, threatening them the government would stop giving them advertisements, their major source of revenue.

A majority of Kashmir-based Journalists feel that reporting from the heavily militarized region has become risky.

At least six Journalists told EFE on the condition of anonymity that their families and friends had suffered due to their professional work.

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