The immigration authorities at IGIA who stopped Aakash Hassan from taking the flight did not assign any reason for the action. Since August 2019, there have been a number of instances where Kashmiri journalists, activists and politicians were stopped from flying abroad
NEW DELHI – The Indian immigration authorities at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport stopped a Kashmiri journalist, Aakash Hassan, from boarding a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday for a reporting reassignment.
Hassan, who frequently contributes to international media including The Guardian, said he was not given any reason for preventing him from traveling abroad.
Recounting his ordeal in a series of tweets immediately after the episode, the scribe said he was made to sit in a room for four hours as his passport and boarding pass were allegedly taken away.
“A staff from the airlines I was travelling in told me that officials have directed them to offload my luggage from the aircraft,” Hassan said. “I was questioned by two officials about my background, travel purpose.”
Eventually, he was handed over the password and the boarding pass with a remark, “Cancelled Without Prejudice”.
Weeks before, another Kashmiri journalist, Sana Irshad Matto, was barred from boarding a flight to France where she was going to attend a book launch event. Irshad won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in features photography for her Covid coverage for Reuters. In her case too , the authorities did not assigned any reason for the travel restriction.
Since August 2019, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status, there have been a number of instances where Kashmiri journalists, activists and politicians were stopped by the immigration authorities from flying abroad.
Notably, on Tuesday, hours before Hassan was stopped from boarding the plane, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said, “Journalists are the eyes and ears of the people and independent journalism is the backbone of democracy.”
Condemning the travel restrictions on Hassan, the Journalist Federation of Kashmir, on Wednesday, issued a statement calling the move a part of the “continued harassment and intimidation of the journalists in Kashmir”.
The group called the travel restrictions on journalists as part of “the ugly pattern of harassing journalists in Kashmir has amplified over the past few years” .
The travel restrictions are “seen as a tactic by the authorities to coerce journalists into not reporting facts on the ground, people in power aren’t comfortable with”.