White House condemns harassment of journalist who questioned Modi on human rights in India

Narendra Modi and Sabrina Siddiqui, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in frame.

The White House on Monday condemned the online harassment of a journalist who questioned Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi about the state of democracy in India.

Sabrina Siddiqui, a Wall Street Journal reporter, asked Modi during a press conference if India’s claim to be the world’s largest democracy was jeopardized as human rights groups denounce the government’s treatment of Muslims.

Since then, Siddiqui has faced online harassment from within India.

“Some of them are politicians, they have associations with the Modi government, and in particular, they have been targeting her because of her Muslim faith and questioning her own heritage,” one journalist said Monday. “Because this was supposed to be about democracy in some form, I wanted to find out what is the White House reaction to the fact that a journalist posing a question to a democratic leader is getting that kind of pushback?”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby swiftly denounced the abuse.

“We’re aware of the reports of harassment,” he said. “It’s unacceptable, and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances. That’s just, that’s completely unacceptable. It’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy that, you’re right, were on display last week during the state visit.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added that the Biden White House is “committed to the freedom of the press.”

The question was initially asked last week during a joint press conference between Modi and President Joe Biden.

“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?” she asked Modi

Modi said he was surprised by the question and responded with a firm, if vague, statement of his support for democracy.

“As President Biden also mentioned, India and America, both countries, democracy is in our DNA,” Modi said through a translator. “Democracy is in our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy.”

He insisted there was no discrimination within the country.

But since then, Siddiqui has been the subject of Twitter harassment from users pointing to her Muslim faith.

A report from the Wire said that Siddiqui had come under “a targeted attack from pro-Hindutva social media users, particularly on Twitter”.

“The online attack on Siddiqui, highlighting her Muslim heritage and connections to Pakistan by dint of having a parent from that country, was led by the head of the BJP’s information cell, Amit Malviya,” the report said, adding that it had also prompted Siddiqui to post a photograph of herself on Twitter cheering for the Indian cricket team along with her India-born father.

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