Amnesty International while describing the travel ban on Pulitzer Prize-winning Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo as ‘witch-hunt’ has said that ‘Arbitrary travel bans have increasingly become the principal tactic of the Indian authorities’.
Responding to news reports that Sanna Irshad was stopped from travelling abroad by immigration authorities at Delhi airport, Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India’s Chair, said: “Arbitrary travel bans have increasingly become the principal tactic of the Indian authorities to silence independent and critical voices…”
“These travel bans are not backed by any court order, warrant or even a written explanation, making it difficult for the activists and journalists to challenge them in the courts. “The Indian authorities have increased the use of travel bans against journalists and human rights defenders from the region of Jammu and Kashmir in the last three years. This incessant witch-hunt is contrary to India’s international human rights obligations.
“The Indian authorities must lift all arbitrary travel bans, stop this unlawful practice and live up to their human rights obligations by respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling the human rights of everyone, including to freedom of expression and movement.”
Sanna Irshad Mattoo was barred from travelling “despite having a valid visa and ticket” to the United States to attend the award ceremony of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to media reports, she has not been given an official reason despite being stopped from international travel previously in July.
In October 2019, shortly before Jammu and Kashmir was dismantled into union territories, more than 450 people – including journalists, lawyers, politicians, human rights activists and businessmen – were placed on a temporary “No-Fly List” without any judicial order.
Since 2019, Amnesty has documented the cases of at least six Kashmiri journalists, human rights activists, academics and politicians – including Gowhar Geelani, Shah Faesal, Bilal Bashir, Zahid Rafiq, Sanna Mattoo and Aakash Hassan – who have been barred from travelling outside India without lawful justification.—KMS