IJU condemns stopping of photojournalist Sana Mattoo from flying abroad, questions center’s no fly list on journalists

NEW DELHI, 3 Jul: The Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has condemned “the petty and vindictive action of both the Centre and J&K administration for stopping Kashmiri photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize awardee Sana Irshad Mattoo from flying to Paris to attend a book launch and photography exhibition.” This, said the IJU, is yet another case of ongoing harassment of journalists and the Press Council of India must take suo moto cognizance.

Mattoo, a photo journalist with Reuters, is among the 10 award winners in South Asia of the Serendipity Arles grant 2020, supported by the Institut Francais en Inde, a section of French Embassy in India. On Saturday, she was stopped by the immigration desk of Delhi’s International airport. Her tweet with a cancelled boarding pass read: “I was scheduled to travel from Delhi to Paris today for a book launch and photography exhibition as one of the 10 award winners of the Serendipity Arles grant 2020. Despite procuring a French visa, I was stopped at the immigration desk at Delhi airport. I was not given any reason but told I would not be able to travel internationally.”

In a statement the IJU president Sabina Inderjit said that the action deserves the strongest condemnation.

Taking note of reports that Mattoo was stopped as she was among several journalists from the Valley put on the ‘no-fly list,’ the IJU demanded the Press Council of India and particularly the three-member Fact Finding Team, which went to J&K should take suo moto cognizance of the case and get the ban removed, to defend freedom of press.

Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani was stopped from travelling to Germany in September 2019 and journalist-turned academician Zahid Rafiq was prevented from flying to the US in 2021 to teach in a university. Ruwa Shah, another journalist was also stopped. The IJU said such actions are an attack on press freedom and unacceptable in any democratic society.