The Biden administration officials strongly criticized an online harassment campaign directed at a Wall Street Journal reporter who questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his government’s human rights record during a recent White House press conference.
The incident occurred during a state visit when democratic principles were prominently displayed, making the online vitriol against White House reporter Sabrina Siddiqui completely unacceptable and contrary to the foundations of democracy, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Emphasizing their commitment to press freedom, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned any form of intimidation or harassment targeting journalists. The incident took place during a press conference at the White House on June 22, 2023, where Siddiqui posed the question to President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi.
She referred to concerns raised by various human rights groups regarding alleged discrimination against religious minorities and efforts to suppress critics, asking about the government’s plans to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities while upholding freedom of speech.
Modi, who rarely interacts with reporters, expressed surprise at the question. Through a translator, he responded, stating that India’s democratic values do not discriminate based on caste, creed, age, or geography. Modi asserted that India and the United States share a deep-rooted democracy, with both countries embracing democratic principles as an integral part of their identities.
Prior to becoming prime minister, Modi faced a ban from the U.S. due to his alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,000 people, primarily Muslims.
Since assuming office in 2014, he has faced criticism regarding his human rights record, including accusations of censoring journalists and curbing autonomy in the Kashmir region.
Following her exchange with Modi, Siddiqui became the target of online abuse primarily from the prime minister’s supporters in India. The Wall Street Journal released a statement on Monday, condemning the harassment and asserting that Siddiqui is a respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased reporting.
The South Asian Journalists Association also stood in support of Siddiqui, expressing solidarity with her and highlighting the harassment faced by South Asian and female journalists who simply carry out their professional duties.
Pakistan’s renowned journalist and anchor Hamid Mir also blasts the online harassment of WSJ journalist, Sabrina Siddiqui via Tweet.
He is very popular but he can’t tolerate bold questions from independent journalists https://t.co/HbceuPwIuL
— Hamid Mir حامد میر (@HamidMirPAK) June 27, 2023