Kashmiri journalists persist through media censorship and travel bans

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Kashmiri journalist Aakash Hassan headed to New Delhi International Airport in late July, ready to depart for Sri Lanka to cover the country’s economic crisis. 

Instead, he was held for hours and questioned about his personal and professional life. His passport was eventually stamped “canceled without prejudice,” meaning he would not be allowed to travel abroad that day. 

Why We Wrote This

Blocked from international travel and facing more and more challenges at home, Kashmiri journalists say the past few years have been a test of their perseverance.

It was a perplexing, but not unique, experience. Several other journalists from Kashmir have been barred from traveling abroad since 2019, when the Indian government stripped the region of its autonomous status and ramped up media restrictions.

Officials gave no reasons for the bans, making them difficult for the journalists to challenge in court. Experts say these travel restrictions are yet another way that authorities are repressing journalism in Kashmir by treating it as a crime. Journalists have also been threatened with jail time and pressured to self-censor. 

As the local media landscape constricts, experts say authorities are increasingly focusing on independent journalists who work with foreign outlets. Those who can find ways to endure the harassment say it’s only made them more determined to report the truth. 

“When we choose to be journalists, we are aware of the consequences. These incidents do not come as a surprise,” says Mr. Hassan. “It might be difficult momentarily, but it won’t stop me.”

Srinagar, India

Aakash Hassan was scheduled to fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 27 to report on the country’s economic crisis, but he never made it. Although the Kashmiri journalist had completed all the travel formalities needed for a speedy departure, when he reached the immigration counter at the New Delhi International Airport, officials took him to a room and questioned him about his personal and professional life. 

After hours of waiting, his passport was stamped “canceled without prejudice,” meaning he would not be allowed to travel abroad that day. 

It was a perplexing experience, but not a unique one. A few weeks prior, another Kashmiri journalist, Sanna Irshad Mattoo, was stopped from traveling to Paris to attend a photography exhibition. Other journalists from the region have also been barred from traveling abroad since 2019, when the Indian government abrogated the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and ramped up media restrictions.

Why We Wrote This

Blocked from international travel and facing more and more challenges at home, Kashmiri journalists say the past few years have been a test of their perseverance.

Officials gave no reasons for the bans, making it difficult for the journalists to challenge the orders in court. Experts say these travel restrictions are yet another way that authorities are repressing journalism in Kashmir by treating it as a crime. Kashmiri journalists have been frequently summoned to police stations and questioned about their work, threatened with jail time, and pressured to self-censor. 

“After the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status … the authorities had decided that even routine journalism – if it appeared contrary to the narrative they wanted to propagate – had to be stopped,” says Kalpana Sharma, a veteran journalist and author who has extensively written about the Indian media. 



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