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NEW DELHI: Indian authorities should allow Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo to travel abroad freely and collect her Pulitzer Prize in New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Tuesday.

On Monday evening, immigration officials at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi stopped Mattoo, who was flying to New York to receive the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in a ceremony scheduled for Thursday, according to the journalist who spoke with CPJ by phone.

Mattoo, a freelance photojournalist, was part of a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, according to the journalist and the Pulitzer website.

Officials declined to give Mattoo any reason for being barred from leaving the country, despite holding a valid passport and US visa, she told CPJ. She said on Twitter that attending the award ceremony is “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for her.

“There is no reason why Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo, who had all the right travel documents and has won a Pulitzer – one of the most prestigious journalism awards – should have been prevented from traveling abroad,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, in Frankfurt, Germany. “This decision is arbitrary and excessive. Indian authorities must immediately cease all forms of harassment and intimidation against journalists covering the situation in Kashmir.”

In July, Mattoo was prevented from traveling to Paris without being offered any reason at the same airport, according to news reports and Mattoo’s tweet at the time.

The Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the country’s immigration authorities and did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

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