White House blasts harassment of Wall Street reporter Sabrina Siddiqui

A.G.Uddin

Minister (2k+ posts)

White House blasts harassment of reporter who asked India's Modi about human rights

Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui posed her question to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a joint press conference with President Joe Biden.

Biden administration officials on Monday blasted an online harassment campaign targeting a Wall Street Journal reporter who asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his government's human rights record during a White House press conference last week.

"It’s completely unacceptable and it's 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 vitriol that's been aimed at White House reporter Sabrina Siddiqui.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later added that "we're committed to the freedom of the press" and "condemn any efforts of intimidation or harassment of a journalist."



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Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui during a press conference with Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on June 22, 2023


During a press conference with President Joe Biden and Modi at the White House on Thursday, Siddiqui said "there are many human rights groups who say your government has discriminated against religious minorities and sought to silence its critics," and 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, who rarely takes questions from reporters, said at the time that he was "surprised" by the question.

“In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, neither on basis of caste, creed, or 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 America both countries, democracy is in our DNA. The democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy,” he added.

Before becoming prime minister, Modi was banned from the U.S. for the role he allegedly played in the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed. Since taking office in 2014, he's faced criticism for aspects of his human rights record, including censoring journalists and stripping autonomy from the region of Kashmir.


Following her exchange with Modi, Siddiqui has been the target of online abuse, mainly from the prime minister's allies in India.

The Wall Street Journal responded to the attacks in a statement Monday calling Siddiqui “a respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased 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 of our colleague @SabrinaSiddiqui who, like many South Asian and female journalists, is experiencing harassment for simply doing her job," the group said on Twitter.


White House condemns harassment of journalist who asked PM Modi a question

The reporter asked Mr. Modi what steps he was willing to take to protect minority rights, and the rights of Muslims and uphold free speech


The White House, on June 26, pushed back strongly against those harassing Sabrina Siddiqui, the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi a question on democratic backsliding in India during a press event at the White House on June 22, following Mr. Modi’s bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

The White House was aware of the reports of harassment, John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council’s lead for strategic communication, said at June 26th’s White House press briefing.

“It’s unacceptable, and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances,” Mr. Kirby said adding that it was “antithetical to the very principles of democracy that were on display last week during the state visit”.

Ms. Siddiqui was called on by Mr. Biden at a press interaction on June 22 to ask questions. She asked Mr. Modi what steps he was willing to take to protect minority rights, and the rights of Muslims and uphold free speech. Mr. Modi defended democratic values in India in his response.

Ms. Siddiqui was trolled online including about her motives and her heritage following the event.

“Since some have chosen to make a point of my personal background, it feels only right to provide a fuller picture. Sometimes identities are more complex than they seem,” Ms. Siddiqui had tweeted on June 24, with photos of herself in an Indian cricket team shirt and another of her (in Team India colours) and her father, watching India win the 2011 Cricket World Cup, as per the photo caption.


Since some have chosen to make a point of my personal background, it feels only right to provide a fuller picture. Sometimes identities are more complex than they seem. pic.twitter.com/Huxbmm57q8
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) June 24, 2023

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated Mr. Kirby’s message shortly after Mr. Kirby’s remarks on June 26.

“We’re committed to the freedom of the press, which is why we had the press conference last week,” the Press Secretary said.


“We certainly condemn any efforts of intimidation or harassment of any journalist that is trying to do their job,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

Ms. Jean-Pierre was asked if Mr. Biden had accepted Mr. Modi’s answer to the question on rights in India.

“I think that is for the Prime Minister to answer and for— for all you all to critique or write about it. I’m not going to discuss that from here,” she said, adding that the Biden administration was committed to freedom of the press and that was the reason the White House thought it was important that the press hear from not just Mr. Biden but also Mr. Modi. The Prime Minister rarely takes questions from the press.

People close to the process told The Hindu that it “took a lot of persistence” to get the Indian side to agree to a joint press event with Mr. Modi taking questions.

Ms. Jean-Pierre declined to provide details of the conversation between the Prime Minister and the President on human rights and press freedoms in India, saying only that Mr. Biden “will never shy away” from having those questions with another leader.

“...I think we have made ourselves very clear here, on our view,” she added.






 
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