Indian journalist Rana Ayyub speaks during the launch of her self published book 'Gujarat Files' in New Delhi in May 2016. On March 29, 2022, Ayyub said she was prevented from flying to Europe to speak about online violence on female journalists. (AFP/Chandan Khanna)

CPJ condemns ‘unjustified’ block on journalist Rana Ayyub leaving India

New Delhi, March 30, 2022 – Indian authorities should immediately reverse their decision to block journalist Rana Ayyub from traveling outside India, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, immigration officials at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in the western city of Mumbai stopped Ayyub, an investigative journalist and a Washington Post commentator who has frequently criticized the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s policies and politics, and told her she was not allowed to travel to London, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ by messaging app.

Airport officials told Ayyub that she could not leave the country because she is the subject of a recently opened money laundering investigation and that the Enforcement Directorate of the Indian finance ministry was sending her a summons to appear on April 1, 2022, Ayyub told CPJ. Ayyub received the emailed summons one hour before her flight departure.

“Preventing Rana Ayyub from traveling abroad is another incident in a growing list of unjustified and excessive actions taken by the Indian government against the journalist,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, from Washington, D.C. “Indian authorities should immediately cease all forms of harassment and intimidation against Ayyub.”

The Enforcement Directorate froze Ayyub’s bank account in February and accused her of laundering money that she raised to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ayyub has denied the allegations and called it an attempt to intimidate her. The account also included income that Ayyub earned writing for The Washington Post and a newsletter on Substack, according to a Substack post by Ayyub.

Ayyub was flying to London to speak at an event about online violence against female journalists organized by the International Center for Journalists, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, according to those news reports. Ayyub has been subjected to intense online trolling and received numerous threats, as CPJ has documented.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the country’s immigration authorities, and the Enforcement Directorate did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via email.