US asks for India press freedom after Pulitzer winner banned from flying: The US demanded press freedom in India on Wednesday after authorities prevented a Kashmiri photographer from going to New York to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Immigration officers stopped Sanna Irshad Mattoo from boarding her flight Tuesday night at the New Delhi airport. But two of her colleagues were able to go.
Mattoo’s flight ban “track carefully” by the US State Department.
“A shared commitment to democratic norms, including respect for the freedom of the press, is the basis of the US-India relationship,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.
He refused to say if Washington had discussed the subject with India, a growing US ally.
Under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, critical journalists face unrelenting internet harassment, especially women.
In a speech Wednesday in Mumbai, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lauded India’s accomplishments since independence. But urged New Delhi to defend “the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights campaigners, students, and academics.”
This year, four Reuters journalists won the feature photography prize, including Mattoo.
The 28-year-old photos of Indian-administered Kashmir, a militarized Himalayan region with a decades-old conflict, have garnered praise.
“I don’t know what to say… this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me,” Mattoo, a Magnum Foundation fellow, told AFP after airport officials marked her ticket “canceled without prejudice.”
“Only I detain without cause.” Being Kashmiri may explain it. ”
Mattoo barred from leaving India again on Tuesday.
She was detained again at the same airport on her route to Paris for a book launch and photographic exhibition in July.
Kashmir , which Pakistan also claims, has been a source of tension between the nuclear-armed foes.
Since 1989, many have died, and over half a million soldiers station there.
In 2019, Modi’s government cut off access to the internet for months and locked up political leaders to avoid a backlash.
Kashmiri reporters claim they have pressured to tone down their work.
Over the last three years, authorities have barred other Kashmiri journalists from overseas.
In July, independent journalist Aakash Hassan, who wrote for the Guardian, was not allowed to work on a plane from New Delhi to Sri Lanka.
He told AFP officials had not explained why he refused passage months later.
“The trend suggests it exclusively occurs to Kashmiri journalists,” Hassan told AFP.
In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Beh Lih Yi called Mattoo’s detention “arbitrary and harsh.”
She demanded India end “all sorts of harassment and intimidation” against Kashmiri journalists.