Pulitzer winner Kashmir journalist says barred from flying abroad

A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist from Indian-administered Kashmir says she has been barred from travelling abroad by the Indian authorities who provided no valid reasons for their refusal.

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 on Saturday afternoon. At the immigration, I was put aside and told to wait for three hours. I kept on asking the officials about the reasons until I missed the flight,” the 28-year-old journalist said.

Mattoo said she was later told she cannot fly abroad. “But they provided no explanation,” she said.

“This is insane, there is nothing against me. One of the officials told me I should check the reason from Kashmir from where directions had come. I don’t understand why I was stopped,” Sana told Al Jazeera by telephone from New Delhi airport.

“I am very disheartened. I was looking forward to this opportunity for a long time.”

Mattoo shared photos of her tickets and passport stamped with “Cancelled without prejudice” by the Indian immigration officials on Twitter.

Journalists and media watchdogs have criticised the move, calling it a “disturbing pattern”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the Indian government “must immediately end its practice of barring Kashmiri journalists from foreign travel”.

“The travel bans are part of a systematic pattern of harassment against Kashmiri journalists, who have increasingly faced arbitrary arrest, frivolous legal cases, threats, physical attacks, and raids since August 2019,” it tweeted.

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