Days after a Wall Street Journal reporter was trolled online for asking prime minister Narendra Modi about free speech and rights of religious minorities at a press conference with US president Joe Biden last week, the White House has strongly condemned her harassment and termed it “unacceptable” and “antithetical to democracy”.
The Asian-origin American reporter, Sabrina Siddiqui, had asked the prime minister about the steps his government was taking to “improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities” in India and “to uphold free speech”. Siddiqui was trolled, with many alleging an ulterior motive behind her question and attacking her Muslim identity.
Siddiqui had mentioned the hate campaign in a tweet last week.
The White House reporter was extended support by several journalists and rights groups.
The US National Security Council’s lead for strategic communication John Kirby said, “It’s unacceptable, and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances.” He said it was “antithetical to the very principles of democracy” that were on display during PM Modi’s visit to the US.
In response to Siddiqui’s question, Modi had said that “democracy is in our DNA, democracy is our spirit” and it “runs in our veins”. He had said that there is “no space for discrimination; not on the basis of caste, creed, age or any kind of geographic location.”
The US president had told the media that the issue of human rights was raised in his talks with Modi, but said that democracy is part of the “DNA” of both countries.
Notably, ahead of the “rare” media interaction, a senior White House official had called it a “big deal” and CNN had that the Indian side was initially reluctant about a press conference and had pushed the idea of a joint statement.