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Kashmiri journalist allegedly prevented from flying to Sri Lanka

Authorities fail to provide cause for barring Aakash Hassan from visiting Colombo
Aakash Hassan
Aakash Hassan

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui   |   New Delhi   |   Published 28.07.22, 02:58 AM

Kashmiri journalist Aakash Hassan has complained that immigration authorities at Delhi airport on Tuesday prevented him from flying to Sri Lanka in connection with work, the second such instance in a month.

Hassan, who writes on human rights and South Asian politics for The Guardian, Al Jazeera and other publications, said the authorities did not offer him any reason for barring him from travelling to Colombo. Last year, he had written about how articles critical of the government were being erased from local news websites.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday night, Hassan said: “Immigration officials at IGI airport New Delhi barred me from boarding a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was headed to report on the current crises in the country. The immigration officials took my passport, boarding pass and have made me sit in a room for last four hours.”

Hassan added: “The officials are not giving me any reason for why I am not allowed. A staff from the airlines I was travelling in told me that officials have directed them to offload my luggage from the aircraft. I was questioned by two officials about my background, travel purpose.

“After making me wait for five hours, without providing even water to drink. I have been handed over my passport and boarding pass with a red rejection stamp: ‘Cancelled Without Prejudice’.”

Hassan tweeted an image of the boarding pass.

Sources in the Union home ministry refused to comment on Hassan’s allegations. “We do not share operational matters with the media,” an immigration official said.

Earlier this month, Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo had alleged she was prevented by immigration officials in Delhi from flying to Paris to receive a prestigious grant. She said she was not told the reason.

Sanna, 26, had become anathema to the Right wing after being awarded the Pulitzer on April 9 for her coverage of the second wave of Covid in India, portrayals of whose unchecked devastation had embarrassed the Narendra Modi government internationally.

Hassan’s experience is being seen as part of an alleged clampdown on journalists in Jammu and Kashmir. According to an article for a portal, which Hassan had posted on his Twitter handle in November last year, “articles critical of the national government are being erased from the websites of local news outlets” in Kashmir.

Hassan’s article, headlined “Kashmir’s vanishing newspaper archives”, had said: “In a long-troubled region of India, articles critical of the national government are being erased from the websites of local news outlets. Journalists believe that pressure from New Delhi is to blame.”

In September 2019, Kashmiri journalist-author Gowhar Geelani was stopped by immigration authorities in Delhi while heading to Germany to attend a training programme in Bonn.

In September 2016, immigration authorities in Delhi prevented Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez from boarding a flight to Geneva to attend a United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting.

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