Indian authorities should allow Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo to travel abroad freely and collect her Pulitzer Prize in New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Monday evening, immigration officials at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi stopped Mattoo, who was flying to New York to receive the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in a ceremony scheduled for Thursday, according to the journalist who spoke with CPJ by phone.
Mattoo, a freelance photojournalist, was part of a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, according to the journalist and the Pulitzer website.
Officials declined to give Mattoo any reason for being barred from leaving the country, despite holding a valid passport and U.S. visa, she told CPJ. She said on Twitter that attending the award ceremony is “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for her.
“There is no reason why Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo, who had all the right travel documents and has won a Pulitzer–one of the most prestigious journalism awards–should have been prevented from traveling abroad,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Frankfurt, Germany. “This decision is arbitrary and excessive. Indian authorities must immediately cease all forms of harassment and intimidation against journalists covering the situation in Kashmir.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the country’s immigration authorities and did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
Since August 2019, when the Indian government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomy status, Kashmiri journalists have told CPJ that they are being barred from traveling abroad.