White House Slams Harassment of Reporter Who Questioned Modi About Human Rights

The White House has condemned the harassment directed towards journalist for asking Modi a question on human rights.

3 min read

Video Producer: Aparna Singh

Video Editor: Karuna Mishra

Senior Editor: Shohini Bose, Namita Handa

The White House has strongly condemned the harassment of the Wall Street Journal journalist Sabrina Siddiqui who questioned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about human rights, democracy and free speech during a rare press conference at the White House last week.

Shortly after, the journalist was subject to online abuse and harassment.

PM Modi recently returned from his three-day-long maiden State visit to the United States, after which he also made an official visit to Egypt.

John Kirby, the US National Security Council’s lead for strategic communication, said that the White House was aware of the reports of harassment directed at Siddique and made a statement strongly condemning the attacks at a White House press briefing on Monday, June 26.


Siddique's Question to PM Modi And His Response

During the White House press conference, Siddique asked the Indian Prime Minister:

"India has long prided itself as the world’s largest democracy, but there are many human rights groups who say that your government has discriminated against religious minorities and sought to silence its critics. As you stand here in the East Room of the White House, where so many world leaders have made commitments to protecting democracy, what steps are you and your government willing to take to improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech?"

Modi, who rarely takes questions from reporters or does press conferences, expressed his surprise at the reporter's question. He answered in Hindi through a translator,

"Democracy is our spirit. Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy…our government has taken the basic principles of democracy. We have always proved that democracy can deliver. And when I say deliver, this is regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender, age or any kind of geographic location. There is absolutely no space for discrimination.”

Subsequently, she received severe backlash from the likes of Amit Malviya, who called the question "motivated" and brought into question Siddiqui's Pakistan-origin.

White House's Response

White House officials have slammed the harassment directed towards the journalist. John Kirby, the US National Security Council’s lead for strategic communication made a statement during a press briefing on Monday.

"It’s unacceptable, and we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances. It was antithetical to the very principles of democracy that were on display last week during the state visit."
John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council’s lead for strategic communication

Additionally, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also made a statement shortly after Mr. Kirby’s remarks on Monday, 26 June.

"We’re committed to the freedom of the press, which is why we had the press conference last week. We certainly condemn any efforts of intimidation or harassment of any journalist that is trying to do their job."
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary

Siddique's Response to The Attacks

After the harassment, Siddique, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, took to Twitter to post photos of herself in a team India cricket jersey. Her caption read, "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."

Siddique, an American Muslim, is a White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Washington, DC, where she covers the Biden presidency.

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