Sanna Irshad Mattoo tells Al Jazeera that she was stopped from going to Paris to attend a book launch and a photography exhibition.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist from Indian-administered Kashmir says she was denied entry abroad by Indian authorities, who gave no valid reasons for their refusal.
Sanna Irshad Mattoo told Al Jazeera she would travel to Paris from New Delhi on Saturday for a book launch and a photography exhibition as one of the 10 winners of the 2020 Serendipity Arles Grant.
Mattoo, a resident of Srinagar, won the Pulitzer along with three other members of the Reuters news agency for their photos about the COVID-19 crisis in India.
“My flight was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. At immigration I was set aside and had to wait three hours. I kept asking the officials for the reasons until I missed the flight,” said the 28-year-old journalist.
Mattoo said she was later told she cannot fly abroad. “But they didn’t explain,” she said.
“This is insane, there is nothing against me. One of the officials told me to check the reason from Kashmir where the clues had come from. I don’t understand why I was stopped,” Sana told by phone from New Delhi airport to Al Jazeera.
“I am very discouraged. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time.”
Mattoo shared photos of her tickets and passport on Twitter with the caption “Cancelled without prejudice.”
I was due to travel from Delhi to Paris today for a book launch and a photography exhibition as one of the 10 award winners of the Serendipity Arles scholarship 2020. Despite obtaining a French visa, I was stopped at the immigration counter at the Delhi airport. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/OoEdBBWNw6
— Sanna Irshad Mattoo (@mattoosanna) July 2, 2022
Journalists and media watchdogs have criticized the move, calling it a “disturbing pattern”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the Indian government must “immediately end its practice of excluding Kashmiri journalists from foreign travel”.
“The travel bans are part of a systematic pattern of harassment of journalists from Kashmir, who have faced increasing arbitrary arrests, frivolous lawsuits, threats, physical attacks and raids since August 2019,” it tweeted.
In recent years, a number of Indian journalists and activists have alleged that they were stopped by the Indian authorities from traveling abroad.
In April of this year, Aakar Patel, the former head of Amnesty International in India, said he was barred from flying to the United States because of a criminal case filed in 2019 against the Indian law office’s office.
Authorities said Patel was part of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s “lookout circular”, which prevents a person wanted by law enforcement agencies from flying abroad.
Days earlier, prominent Indian journalist Rana Ayyub was also banned from boarding her flight to London, where she was to address an event about attacking journalists in India. She was later allowed 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 stopped at New Delhi airport from traveling to Europe.