Outrage as another Kashmiri journalist stopped from flying abroad | Freedom of the Press News

One more Kashmiri journalist has been stopped by the Indian authorities from flying overseas as outrage grows over a unbroken clampdown on press freedom in Indian-administered Kashmir and its residents.

Unbiased journalist Aakash Hassan, 25, was on his option to Sri Lanka for a reporting project final week when immigration officers at New Delhi airport barred him from boarding the flight, making him the fourth Kashmiri journalist in a couple of yr to face the motion.

“I received my boarding go and after I was on the immigration, I used to be informed to attend on the aspect,” Hassan informed Al Jazeera.

“Then I used to be taken to a room and interrogated by two individuals who didn’t determine themselves. They requested me what sort of journalism I do. They requested about my background,” he mentioned.

Hassan mentioned the interrogation continued for 5 hours.

“My passport and boarding go have been stamped with ‘Stopped with out prejudice’ and my baggage was offloaded,” mentioned Hassan, who additionally shared footage of the stamping on Twitter.

The immigration officers, Hassan mentioned, didn’t present any justification for why he was stopped.

“They mentioned there was a lookout round issued on my identify however they denied disclosing which company had issued it,” he mentioned.

A lookout round is issued by India’s legislation enforcement businesses to cease a person – both absconding or wished – from leaving the nation. It’s largely used at immigration checkpoints at worldwide airports.

Kashmir Press Club building is pictured through a closed gate
The Kashmir Press Membership in Srinagar was sealed by Indian authorities earlier this yr [File: Dar Yasin/AP]

‘Focused for our work’

Hassan mentioned there isn’t a prison case in opposition to him.

“The worst factor is I don’t know who I ought to strategy. That is going to take a psychological toll on me. We’re being focused for our work,” he informed Al Jazeera.

“It’ll jeopardise my future.”

Kashmiri journalists say issuing of lookout circulars in opposition to them and stopping them from worldwide journey is a brand new development.

Final month, Pulitzer Prize-winning Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo was prevented from flying to Paris for a photograph exhibition.

“I used to be shocked and heartbroken,” the 28-year-old then informed Al Jazeera, including that she, like Hassan, didn’t have a prison case in opposition to her.

Mattoo, a contributor to the Reuters information company, was a part of a four-member workforce of photojournalists that received the Pulitzer final yr for his or her protection of the COVID-19 disaster in India.

Final yr, two different Kashmiri journalists – Zahid Rafiq and Ruwa Shah – have been barred from flying overseas.

In 2019, unbiased journalist Gowhar Geelani was stopped at New Delhi airport when he was on his option to Germany to hitch a job.

There have been related examples from outdoors Kashmir as effectively.

In April this yr, Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty Worldwide in India, mentioned he was stopped from flying to america due to a prison case filed in opposition to the rights physique. Authorities mentioned Patel was on a “lookout round” issued by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

Days earlier than that, outstanding Indian journalist Rana Ayyub was additionally stopped from boarding a flight to London the place she was scheduled to deal with a press occasion. She was allowed to fly 5 days later after she approached a courtroom of legislation.

Some Kashmiris allege their passports weren’t being renewed by the Indian authorities.

“The passport verification course of has been pending for greater than six months,” a 30-year-old Kashmiri journalist who didn’t need to be recognized informed Al Jazeera.

‘Systematic sample of harassment’

Kashmiri teachers and journalists finding out or working overseas say they worry visiting dwelling over the danger of being barred from flying again.

“They [authorities] have used all types of means to harass journalists, questioning them, harassing households, arrests and now stopping them from going out of India is a brand new problem,” Kashmiri journalist Ahmad who didn’t need to be recognized by his first identify informed Al Jazeera.

“With every day, doing journalism in Kashmir is changing into not possible … Journalism in Kashmir is sort of lifeless,” he added.

Al Jazeera reached out to a number of authorities officers in Kashmir for his or her feedback on the difficulty. One official, talking on the situation of anonymity, justified the restrictions on Kashmiri journalists.

“It [the lookout circular] is being issued solely in opposition to these people who peddle a sustained insidious narrative in opposition to the [Indian] state. They [journalists] are a part of the ‘terror ecosystem’ and the state is inside its rights to problem lookout circulars in opposition to such individuals,” he mentioned.

After India’s Hindu nationalist authorities stripped Kashmir of its restricted autonomy in 2019, the disputed area has witnessed a collection of crackdowns in opposition to journalists and media organisations.

In January this yr, the Kashmir Press Membership – the biggest unbiased media physique within the area – was dissolved by the federal government. Kashmiri journalists complain of being routinely summoned to police stations and interrogated about their work.

Journalist Aasif Sultan in handcuffs on his way to judicial custody
Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan has been in jail for almost 4 years [File: Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Some journalists have been booked beneath stringent legal guidelines, together with the Illegal Actions Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Public Security Act (PSA), which permit lengthy detention of an individual with out trial.

India is ranked one hundred and fiftieth within the World Press Freedom Index 2022, down from 142 the earlier yr and at present under Hong Kong and Turkey.

“The journey bans are a part of a scientific sample of harassment in opposition to Kashmiri journalists, who’ve more and more confronted arbitrary arrest, frivolous authorized instances, threats, bodily assaults, and raids since August 2019,” media watchdog the Committee to Defend Journalists (CPJ) tweeted final month.

Referring to Hassan’s case, CPJ mentioned, “Overseas governments should deal with arbitrary journey restrictions on Kashmiri journalists as severe violations of human rights in any engagement with the Indian authorities.”

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, informed Al Jazeera “arbitrary restrictions” on Kashmiri journalists travelling overseas have been “extraordinarily regarding” and violated their livelihood and freedom of motion.

Geeta Seshu, co-founder of the Free Speech Collective, an unbiased organisation that advocates press freedom in India, mentioned “persevering with harassment and intimidation” of Kashmiri journalists by stopping them from flying overseas “smacks of discrimination”.

“It’s also disturbing because it seeks to ship a message to unbiased journalists that their proper of free entry and mobility is incumbent on their obedience and acquiescence to the powers that be,” she informed Al Jazeera.

“That is undemocratic and violates their elementary proper to free expression. So many journalists from India have travelled to varied hassle spots, together with Sri Lanka, with out being stopped or curbed in any method.”

For Russians, flying abroad is a difficult, costly affair | Aviation

When Russian tutorial Mishaa determined in March to flee his nation amid rumours of martial legislation, his choices have been restricted and costly.

Lower off from Europe as a result of European Union’s ban on Russian plane, Mishaa, who comes from the central Russian metropolis of Yekaterinburg, seemed additional east, the place many former Soviet republics supply Russians visa-free entry.

“I booked a flight to Armenia as a result of I’ve many Armenian mates, I used to be certain there’d be a neighborhood right here, and also you don’t want a visa,” Mishaa advised Al Jazeera, who requested to make use of a  pseudonym. “Armenians usually suppose positively of Russians; there’s much less historic tensions than with Georgia, as an example.”

Mishaa paid 40,000 roubles ($599), way over ordinary, for his one-way flight to the Armenian capital Yerevan, a visit of lower than 4 hours.

“Once I purchased tickets Russia was nonetheless in SWIFT, so I might nonetheless use my regular financial institution playing cards. The worth was enormous – I paid round 40,000 rubles [$599] for a one-way journey,” he stated. “That’s nonsense, one thing I might by no means have executed in peacetime. Not everybody might really guide flights at that value – not everybody has spare money or a gradual job – so it’s additionally a query of a sure privilege.”

Now working remotely from Yerevan, Mishaa transfers his wages to Armenia utilizing cryptocurrency, however for probably the most half, survives on the money he managed to take earlier than he left.

INTERACTIVE International flights from Russia

Since Russia launched its warfare on Ukraine, worldwide journey for Russians has turn into costly, tough and patchy.

Russian plane have been banned from European and North American airspace, whereas the nation’s Boeing and Airbus plane face the specter of repossession by Western leasing companies in the event that they depart the nation.

“The Russian airways have been pressured to ‘steal’ them by the Russian authorities,” stated Viktor Berta, vp of aviation finance at ACC Aviation in London.

AerCap, the world’s largest leasing agency primarily based in Dublin, Eire, has filed a $3.5bn insurance coverage declare for greater than 100 of its jets stranded in Russia, which account for about 5 p.c of its leased plane by worth.

Domhnal Slattery, chief government of the Dublin-headquartered plane leasing firm Avolon, stated in a quarterly monetary assertion that his firm was capable of repossess 4 plane earlier this yr and can make each effort to get better 10 extra nonetheless in Russia. In the meantime, the corporate acknowledged a $304m loss to put in writing right down to zero the worth of 10 plane that it’d by no means get again.

Even so, Russian airways have been slowly clawing their manner again into worldwide operations to international locations that can settle for flights.

Worldwide flights originating in Russia dropped from 1,126 per week when the warfare in Ukraine started on February 24 to 181 two weeks later, based on FlightRadar24. By the final week in April, worldwide flights recovered to 379 for the week. Of those, 103 have been to Turkey, with many of the the rest to a half-dozen former Soviet republics, together with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

INTERACTIVE Where are Russians flying to?

Russian-built Superjets are utilizing Sochi as a hub for departures to locations together with Turkey, Egypt and Israel frequently, based on FlightRadar24.

The five hundred or so Western-built plane leased by Russian airways are largely not leaving the nation as a result of they might be repossessed by Western firms that personal them, a Russian aviation knowledgeable advised Al Jazeera, talking on situation of anonymity.

Nonetheless, the knowledgeable stated that Russian airways personal some western plane outright and likewise paid off the loans on some others to allow them to be utilized in service exterior of Russia. Russian airways might additionally resort to grounding plane to reap spare components to maintain different plane flying, he stated.

Some older mannequin Airbus A320s and Boeing 737-800s are being utilized in worldwide service, based on FlightRadar24, though Boeing and Airbus are not offering spare components for plane primarily based in Russia. Boeing and Airbus have additionally halted plane deliveries to Russia. Nonetheless, Russia’s Aeroflot has managed to maintain some Boeing A330s within the air and, earlier this month, introduced the resumption of normal flights to New Delhi, which has maintained heat relations with Moscow.

Marina, a 25-year-old IT skilled from Moscow with a ardour for journey, has managed to fly to Sri Lanka, Greece, Cyprus and the UK for the reason that begin of the battle, though it has been removed from simple.

Marina, who requested to make use of a pseudonym, had deliberate to go to Sri Lanka together with her boyfriend on February 25, the day after Russia launched its invasion.

“At first we didn’t perceive, however as soon as we understood, we determined to go anyway, so if issues acquired actually dangerous, we’ll keep there,” she advised Al Jazeera.

Boeing plane
Boeing and Airbus, the 2 largest suppliers of plane for Russian airways, have ceased operations in Russia
[File: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg]

Whereas in Sri Lanka, Marina and her associate determined to maneuver to Cyprus, which might require them to journey by way of Moscow.

Marina and her associate booked tickets to Cyprus, through Bulgaria and Greece, on the identical day Russia was kicked out of the SWIFT worldwide funds system, rendering their financial institution playing cards virtually ineffective. After turning to a pal at a financial institution that had not been sanctioned for assist, the couple managed to withdraw a part of their financial savings. Since then, they’ve been carrying round 1000’s of {dollars} in money.

“On the Greek border, they requested us intimately about the place we’d reside and the way lengthy we’d keep,” she stated.

“In Athens itself, there have been no explicit issues, aside from the impossibility of paying by card and strolling with ten thousand bucks in your pocket within the dodgy neighbourhood the place we have been staying, which was not enjoyable.”

Mike Stengel of AeroDynamic Advisory, an aerospace business administration consulting agency in Ann Arbor, Michigan, stated Russia’s aviation business might find yourself just like the one in Iran, “which has been capable of keep a fleet of Western-built plane utilizing some back-end measures to maintain them flying”.

“Russia has a commercially profitable aerospace business that also employs a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals,” Stengel advised Al Jazeera.

“It has produced plane prior to now, so there’s a historical past and infrastructure for designing and producing plane engines and plane elements. It gained’t be good and it might in all probability end in conserving a skeleton fleet of kinds, however they’ve a variety of the instruments wanted to make it work to maintain western-built plane flying for many years.”

For Russians like Mishaa, who’s against the warfare in Ukraine, the nation’s worldwide isolation is directly comprehensible and troubling.

“The isolation was anticipated. What did they need? That every one the European neighborhood will react modestly? I by no means believed that,” he stated.

“I believe that sanctions are honest basically, however in fact I care in regards to the financial circumstances in my house nation: how my dad and mom will reside there, my brother, my household. After all sanctions will hit all of society, but it surely’s a kleptocratic, oligarchical mafia state, and the poor will endure extra.”