US swears by press freedom as India stops Pulitzer winner journalist

Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo stopped from flying to New York to receive prize

The United States reiterated its own commitment to press freedom after Indian authorities stopped Pulitzer Prize-winning Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from flying to New York to receive the prize.

The US State Department Wednesday described respect for the independence of press as a “bedrock of the US-India relationship” but would not say if Washington has raised the Mattoo issue with the Indian foreign ministry.

“We are aware of the reports of Ms. Mattoo being prevented from traveling to the US and are tracking these developments closely,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters in response to a question.

Read: Two Indian American journalists win Pulitzers (June 14, 2021)

“We are committed to supporting press freedom,” he said. “And as the Secretary has noted, a shared commitment to democratic values, including the respect for the independence of press, is a bedrock of the US-India relationship.”

“But I don’t have any other specifics to offer, but we are tracking this closely,” Patel said.

Asked if Washington has raised the issue with the Indian foreign ministry the spokesman said he was “not aware of and can’t speak to any diplomatic engagements on this,” offering to share any update with the media.

Earlier Mattoo, 28, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Covid-19 in India in 2020, tweeted that she had been stopped at Delhi airport from boarding her flight on Oct 17 despite having a valid ticket and US visa.

“I was on my way to receive the Pulitzer award in New York, but I was stopped at immigration at Delhi airport and barred from travelling internationally despite holding a valid US visa and ticket,” she wrote on Twitter.”

“This is the second time I have been stopped without reason or cause. Despite reaching out to several officials after what happened few months ago but I never received ay response,” Mattoo noted.

“Being able to attend the award ceremony was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me,” wrote Mattoo who was stopped from travelling to Paris in July also for a photography exhibition as a winner of the Serendipity Arles grant 2020.

Read: India stops journalist from flying to U.S. to receive Pulitzer Prize (October 20, 2022)

Mattoo won the Pulitzer Prize In May 2022, in the Feature Photography category for her work published by Reuters. She shared the award with the Reuters team, including the late Danish Siddiqui, Amit Dave and Adnan Abidi, for their coverage of the Covid-19 crisis in India.

Dave and Abidi who are not from Kashmir were allowed to board their flight, according to reports.

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