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Pro-Separatists posts, Anti-army comments, repeating Pakistani rhetoric and more: Meet Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo

The other winners of the award include Adnan Abidi, Amit Dave and the deceased Danish Siddiqui.

On Monday (April 9), documentary photographer and photojournalist Sannad Irshad Mattoo was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the category of ‘Feature Photography’ for her coverage of the second wave of Coronavirus in India. The other winners of the award include Adnan Abidi, Amit Dave and the deceased Danish Siddiqui.

While speaking about the development to The Indian Express, she remarked, “It is huge (for me). It is a proud moment for us.” Sanna Irshad Mattoo holds a Master’s degree in convergent journalism from the Central University of Kashmir.

Her work focuses primarily on Jammu and Kashmir and her pictures have been published in several propaganda news portals such as Al Jazeera and Caravan.

Sanna is also among the 11 people who were selected for the ‘2021 Photography and Social Justice Fellowship’ by the Magnum Foundation. The program is supported financially by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, which is known to fuel anti-India narratives through media and ‘civil society.’

Here is an analysis of the social media activity of the Pulitizer prize-winning journalist:

The portrayal of Indian Security Forces in a negative light

A majority of Sanna’s work is focused on portraying the Indian security forces as ‘oppressive’ and antagonistic to the locals in the Kashmiri Valley. Given that the region poses a constant threat from Islamic extremists, the security forces need to stay on high alert at all times.

They are compelled to conduct surveillance operations, and frequent frisking of pedestrians to thwart possibilities of a terror attack. Despite being aware that all of these are meant for the safety of innocent Kashmiris, Sanna milked the opportunity to paint the ‘protectors’ as the villains.

“Forces frisk pedestrians in Srinagar. #Kashmir” read a Twitter post by the Reuters photojournalist.

“Central Reserve Police Force were seen stopping passenger vehicles and asking the passengers to step out and line up for searches. Passengers were asked for identity proofs in Srinagar, Kashmir on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. #Kashmir,” read another post.

Toeing the Pakistani line on Jammu and Kashmir

Besides portraying Indian security forces in a negative light, Sanna Irshad Mattoo was seen toeing the Pakistani line on the Indian Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In several of her Twitter posts, she was seen referring to Kashmir as ‘Indian-administered.’

“In the northern region of Lidderwat, more than 100 km (60 miles) from the capital of India-administered Kashmir, medical teams have had to trek more than 6 hours on foot and ponies to reach nomadic and shepherd tribes in the mountains,” read one post.

Screengrab of the Twitter post

A similar reference to ‘Indian occupied Kashmir’ was made by the Reuters photojournalist in a Facebook post dated April 8, 2018.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

In another post, Sanna Irshad Mattoo was seen claiming that the narrative of the ‘Indian State’ had failed. “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming,” read an image posted by her on Facebook.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

Just like the State of Pakistan, which does not leave any opportunity to internationalize the Kashmir issue through fear-mongering, Sanna Irshad Mattoo was seen misleading people about the Indian Union territory.

“The ongoing situation in Kashmir is alarming and the pattern to control has become increasingly alarming,” she had alleged in October 2020.

Sanna Irshad Mattoo has been consistent in peddling the anti-India narrative before the world by whitewashing terrorism in the Valley and painting Kashmiris as victims of the Indian State.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

The Reuters photojournalist was even seen giving a call to avenge the supposed oppression and high-handedness of the Indian State.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

A sympathizer of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Geelani

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a three-time legislator and the face and voice of Pakistan in Kashmir, was active in the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir for around seven decades. He passed away in September last year.

In the 1990s, with active support from Pakistan, Geelani instigated several Kashmiri Muslim youths to pick up arms against the State. In a way, Geelani was the chief architect of terrorism in the valley.

A vocal supporter of Pakistan and its designs in the Kashmir valley, Geelani had made it clear that his agenda is Islamism, packaged and delivered as per Pakistan’s wishes. “Hum Pakistani Hain Aur Pakistan Hamara Hai”, was his famous slogan.

Despite being well aware of his pro-separatist advocacy, she downplayed his role in the creation of insurgency in the Valley by labeling him as a ‘senior pro-freedom’ leader.

In other social media posts, Sanna referred to Geelani as an ‘ailing leader’ and ‘important political figure.’

Screengrab of the tweet

Anti-Hindu rhetorics and Islamist narrative building

In May 2019, the Kashmiri documentary photographer was seen endorsing an article that compared Hindus with the Nazis.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

In another Facebook post, Sanna Irshad Mattoo was seen thanking a Pakistani who compared the Indian State to Kufr Ka Nizam. Kufr is a derogatory term used by Islamists to dehumanize non-Muslims and call for their persecution and killing.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

Support for extremist elements

She was also seen demanding the release of MeToo accused journalist Fahad Shah, who was arrested for glorifying terrorist activities and promoting anti-national content on Facebook.

Screengrab of the tweet by Sanna Irshad Mattoo

Maqbool Bhat was the founder of Azad Kashmir Plebiscite Front, a forerunner to the present-day terror outfit Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Bhat carried out terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir and was involved in killing government officials. Justice Neelkanth Ganjoo had handed a death sentence to Bhat, following which he was assassinated by Yasin Malik.

Despite being well aware of his terror antecedents, Sanna dubbed Maqbool Bhat as ‘Baba-e-Quom (Father of Nation)’. She also alleged that he was hanged in secrecy and then executed ‘unfairly’ by the Indian State.

Screengrab of the Facebook post

From the social media activity of Sanna Irshad Mattoo, it becomes evident that her views comply with the perspective that the global media wants to portray about India.

The credibility of such awards comes under the scanner each time they are given for politically motivated reasons, portray the Indian state and its armed forces as oppressors and look down upon the country as a whole.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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