Sanna Irshad Mattoo tells Al Jazeera she was prevented from going to Paris to attend a book launch and photography exhibition.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist from Indian-administered Kashmir says she was banned from traveling abroad by Indian authorities who provided no valid reason for their refusal.
Sanna Irshad Mattoo told Al Jazeera she was due 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 along with three other members of the Reuters news agency for their photos on the COVID-19 crisis in India.
“My flight was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. At immigration, I was put aside and told to wait three hours. I kept asking the authorities for the reasons until I missed the flight,” the 28-year-old journalist said.
Mattoo said she was later told she couldn’t fly overseas. “But they didn’t provide any explanation,” she said.
“It’s crazy, there is nothing against me. One of the officials told me that I should check the reason of Kashmir where the directions came from. I don’t understand why I was arrested”, Sana told Al Jazeera by phone from New Delhi airport.
“I am very discouraged. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. »
Mattoo shared photos of his tickets and passport stamped “Cancelled without prejudice” by Indian immigration officials on Twitter.
I was due to travel from Delhi to Paris today for a book launch and photography exhibition as one of the 10 winners of the Serendipity Arles scholarship 2020. Despite obtaining a French visa, I was arrested at the Delhi airport immigration office. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/OoEdBBWNw6
— Sanna Irshad Mattoo (@mattoosanna) July 2, 2022
Journalists and media watchdogs criticized the move, calling it a “worrying pattern”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the Indian government “must immediately end its practice of banning Kashmiri journalists from traveling abroad.”
“The travel bans are part of a systematic pattern of harassment against Kashmiri journalists, who have increasingly faced arbitrary arrests, frivolous court cases, threats, physical attacks and raids since August 2019,” he tweeted.
In recent years, a number of Indian journalists and activists have claimed to have been prevented from traveling abroad by Indian authorities.
In April this year, Aakar Patel, the former head of Amnesty International in India, said he had been prevented from flying to the United States due to a criminal case filed against the Indian office of the advocacy organization in 2019.
Authorities said Patel was part of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s “surveillance circular”, which prevents a person wanted by law enforcement from flying overseas.
A few days earlier, prominent Indian journalist Rana Ayyub had also been banned from boarding her flight to London where she was due to speak at an event on the targeting of journalists in India. She was later cleared to fly after approaching a court.
Both Patel and Ayyub are outspoken critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
In 2019, Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani claimed he was arrested at New Delhi airport while traveling to Europe.