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Pulitzer- Winning Kashmiri Journalist Sanna Mattoo Stopped from Attending Award Function in New York

Anees Zargar |
Sanna now amongst several journalists from Kashmir facing travel restrictions.
Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo

Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo. Image Courtesy: Instagram/Sanna Irshad Mattoo

Srinagar: Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo was on Tuesday night barred from travelling by immigration officials at New Delhi airport to attend an award ceremony in New York, she said. 

“I was on my way to receive the Pulitzer award @Pulitzerprizes in New York but I was stopped at immigration at Delhi airport and barred from travelling internationally despite holding a valid US visa and ticket,” Sanna wrote on Twitter.  

This is the second time the 28-year-old was stopped, she said, without “being given a reason or cause”. Sanna, who contributes to the Reuters news agency, was earlier stopped on July 2 when she was on her way to attend a book launch and a photography exhibition in France. She was among the winners of the prestigious Serendipity Arles grant 2020.  

“Despite reaching out to several officials after what happened (a) few months ago but I never received any response. Being able to attend the award ceremony was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” she tweeted. 

In May, Sanna was named winner of the prestigious Pulitzer prize in the Feature Photography category for her Covid-19 crisis coverage in India. She is the first Kashmiri Muslim woman to win the award and is amongst the photojournalists who’ve gained prominence through their work covering conflict, crisis and daily life in restive Kashmir. 

However, Sanna is now also amongst several journalists from Kashmir facing travel restrictions. Many others especially those contributing to the international press have been “indexed” by the authorities which bar them from travelling outside the country. On July 26, another Kashmiri journalist Aakash Hassan was stopped by immigration officials at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi as he was about to board a flight to crisis-hit Sri Lankan capital Colombo. 

Aakash and Sanna’s travel restrictions are seen as part of the crackdown. Three journalists from Kashmir are currently in jail after J&K police booked them in the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on charges the former have vehemently denied. 

Journalists, political leadership and media rights groups have condemned the action against Kashmiri journalists terming it an attack on press freedom, liberty and democracy. 

“This explains to a great extent the problem that persists in Kashmir and the insecurities involved. Barring a journalist to attend the Pulitzer award ceremony is a message to not just one but to all. This not puts our careers but our lives at risk,” a freelance journalist told NewsClick.  

Jodie Ginsberg, the president of global press freedom advocate – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), termed action against Sanna as “shameful”. 

“Award-winning journalist @mattoosanna stopped for a second time from leaving India. No reason was given. This time Sanna was on her way to collect a @PulitzerPrizes award for her and her colleagues' powerful images of the COVID-19 death toll in India. Shameful,” she tweeted. 

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