India stops Pulitzer-winning journalist from traveling to US for ceremony

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Indian authorities have stopped a photojournalist from boarding a flight to the United States, where she had planned to attend a ceremony to receive a Pulitzer Prize.

Sanna Irshad Mattoo, who is based in Indian Kashmir’s largest city of Srinagar, is part of a four-member Reuters team which won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for their coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in India.

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Mattoo, who holds an Indian passport, said she was stopped at immigration at New Delhi airport on Monday night and prevented from travelling to the United States despite holding a valid visa and a ticket.

“Being able to attend the award ceremony was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me,” Mattoo said on Twitter on Tuesday.

India’s home ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters. The foreign ministry said it had no comment to offer.

Journalists in Kashmir have long been under the close scrutiny of local and national authorities, who also strictly control access for foreign reporters who want to travel there.

The Himalayan region is claimed in full by both India and neighboring Pakistan, but both countries only control parts of it.

Reuters said it had not been provided any reason for blocking Mattoo’s travel.

“We are disappointed that Sanna Irshad Mattoo, a contributor to Reuters, has not been allowed to travel to the United States to receive her Pulitzer Prize in New York alongside her peers.”

“We have not been offered an official explanation as to why she has not been allowed to leave the country, but we believe that journalists should be able to travel freely,” Reuters said in a statement.

Mattoo had said in a tweet in July that immigration officials in New Delhi also had barred her from flying to France, where she was scheduled to attend a book launch and photography exhibition.

In Mattoo’s tweet on Tuesday she said that despite reaching out to several officials after the July incident, she had not received a response.

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