Jun 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

White House condemns harassment of reporter who questioned Modi

Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui asks a question to during a joint press conference with President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on June 22. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Biden administration officials on Monday denounced online harassment against a Wall Street Journal reporter who asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his government's human rights record at the White House last week.

Driving the news: Sabrina Siddiqui has been subject to "intense online harassment from people inside India," some of them politicians associated with Modi's government, and is being targeted because of her Muslim faith, another reporter said during a White House press briefing Monday.

What they're saying: National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in response that the White House is aware of the reports of harassment and called it "unacceptable."

  • "We absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances," Kirby said. "It's antithetical to the very principles of democracy that ... were on display last week during the state visit."
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added: "Here, at the White House, under this administration, we're committed to the freedom of the press, which is why we had the press conference last week."
  • She added that White House officials "certainly condemn any efforts of intimidation or harassment of a journalist or any journalist that is just trying to do their job."

Context: Siddiqui said to Modi during a press conference on Thursday alongside President Biden that "there are many human rights groups who say your government has discriminated against religious minorities and sought to silence its critics."

  • She then asked: "What steps are you and your government willing to take to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and uphold free speech?"
  • Modi responded through a translator, saying: "In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, neither on basis of caste, creed, or age or any kind of geographic location," per NBC News.
  • "Indeed, India is a democracy. And as President Biden also mentioned, India and America both countries, democracy is in our DNA. The democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy,” he added," Modi added.

Go deeper: Modi touts democracy, denies discrimination in rare press conference

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