Biden administration officials on Monday criticized an online harassment campaign targeting a Wall Street Journal reporter who questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his government’s human rights record during a House press conference. White last week.
«It is completely unacceptable and is antithetical to the very principles of democracy that … were on display last week during the state visit,» National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said of the online attack targeting White House reporter Sabrina Siddiqui.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later added that «we are committed to press freedom» and «we condemn any attempt to intimidate or harass a journalist.»
During a press conference with President Joe Biden and Modi at the White House on Thursday, Siddiqui said that «there are many human rights groups who say that your government has discriminated against religious minorities and has sought to silence its critics» and asked «what steps are you taking?» and the government of him willing to take to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in his country and defend freedom of expression.»
Modi, who rarely answers questions from reporters, said at the time that he was «shocked» by the question.
«In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, whether based on caste, creed, age or any kind of geographic location,» Modi said through a translator in response to Siddiqui.
“Indeed, India is a democracy. And as President Biden also mentioned, India and the United States, both countries, democracy is in our DNA. Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs through our veins. We live democracy,” he added.
Before becoming prime minister, Modi was expelled from the United States for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which killed 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Since he took office in 2014, he has faced criticism over aspects of his human rights record, including the censorship of journalists and the stripping of the Kashmir region’s autonomy.
Following his exchange with Modi, Siddiqui has been the target of abuse online, mainly by allies of the prime minister in India.
The Wall Street Journal responded to the attacks in a statement Monday calling Siddiqui “a respected journalist known for her integrity and impartial reporting. This harassment of our reporter is unacceptable and we strongly condemn it.»
The South Asian Journalists Association also defended Siddiqui. «We want to express our continued support for our colleague @SabrinaSiddiqui who, like many South Asian and female journalists, is harassed simply for doing their job,» the group said. said on Twitter.