WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday slammed a harassment campaign targeting a Wall Street Journal reporter who asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about human rights in his country at a White House press conference last week.
During a joint press conference with Modi and President Joe Biden last week, Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui asked Modi “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 has rarely spoken to the media since taking office in 2014 and said he was “surprised” by the question.
“In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, neither on the basis of caste, creed, or age or any kind of geographic location,” Modi said through a translator.
“Indeed, India is a democracy. And as President Biden also mentioned, in India and America both countries, democracy is in our DNA. Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live in a democracy,” he added.
Since Thursday, Siddiqui has been the target of online attacks, mainly from the prime minister’s allies in India.
“We’re committed to the freedom of the press,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We certainly condemn any efforts of intimidation or harassment of a journalist or any journalist that is just trying to do their job.”
“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.
Several groups including South Asian Journalists Association along with the Wall Street Journal responded to the attacks in a statement Monday calling Siddiqui “a respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased reporting.”