June 28, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The White House strongly denounced the online harassment of a reporter who questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on religious minorities’ rights during joint press conference with US President Joe Biden in Washington last week, it emerged on Tuesday.
According to the Hindustan Times, Sabrina Siddiqui from the Wall Street Journal had asked Modi about what the government had done to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in India.
“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 the Indian premier.
Modi responded to the question in Hindi by saying, “In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, neither based on caste, creed, age, nor any kind of geographic location.
“Indeed, India is a democracy. And as President Biden also mentioned, India and America, both countries, democracy is in our DNA. Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy,” the report quoted him as saying.
The Hindustan Times report said that Siddiqui had since encountered “online trolling on various social media platforms”.
A report from the Wire from three days ago also 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.
The matter was brought up during a press briefing on Monday by John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The reporter at the briefing noted that Siddiqui had been subjected to “intense online harassment from people inside India”, including some politicians with links to the BJP-government, asking for the White House’s reaction to this.
“We’re aware of the reports of that harassment. It’s unacceptable. And we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances,” Kirby said.
“That’s just — that’s completely unacceptable. And it’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy that — that — you’re right — were on display last week during the state visit,” he said.