People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday said it is no secret that the BJP-led Union wants to crush journalism, the fourth pillar of democracy.
“Immediately after CJIs remarks on the role of journalists in a democracy, @AakashHassan was barred from travelling abroad. Its no secret that GOI wants to crush the very backbone and fourth pillar of our democracy because of its intolerance to the truth,” read a tweet by Mufti.
Mufti was reacting to authorities not allowing a Kashmiri journalist, Aakash Hassan, to travel to Sri Lanka for covering the ongoing crisis in the neighbouring country.
Days after barring Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from travelling abroad, Hassan was barred from boarding his flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
After reaching the airport at about 3:30 pm on Tuesday afternoon, Hassan collected his boarding pass. While heading toward immigration, his passport was checked and he was stopped from going ahead, Hassan told Maktoob.
“I was initially told that there was some problem with my passport. I was made to sit there for about five hours. When the airline staff came asking for me, they were asked to offload my luggage from the plane,” he said, adding that he was meanwhile questioned about his background, family, and profession.
About five hours later, Hassan finally tweeted about being stopped from travelling and he also uploaded a picture of his boarding pass with a stamp of “cancelled without prejudice”.
“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, and boarding pass and have made me sit in a room for the last four hours,” he wrote.
Soon after his tweet, Hassan said that the officers allowed him to leave. On asking for the reason, Hassan said that the officers replied that their system flashed his name and therefore, he was being stopped. “They told me that they contacted the higher-ups and they [higher-ups] said that I was supposed to be allowed to travel,” said Hassan.
Hassan, who often contributes to international media organizations like Guardian had been getting assignments to travel abroad for reporting stories, but he said that he was apprehensive about how the Kashmiri journalists were being stopped.
Recently, Mattoo was barred from flying abroad by immigration authorities, citing the restrictions being imposed on her by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Mattoo was on her way to Paris to attend a book launch event and participate in a photography exhibition when she was stopped by immigration authorities at the Delhi airport.
In 2019, another senior Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani was stopped at the Delhi airport from travelling to a journalists’ conference in Germany and was allegedly told that no explanation could be provided to him for the ban.