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White House Slams 'Harassment' of Journalist Questioning Prime Minister on Human Rights

John Kirby, a high-ranking official, acknowledged the Wall Street Journal's inquiry regarding their reporter and confirmed that the White House had knowledge of the alleged mistreatment.

New Delhi: The White House has strongly condemned the "severe online harassment" faced by Sabrina Siddiqui, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Siddiqui raised a question on the state of democracy in India during the joint press conference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden in the United States last week. The White House expressed its disapproval of the harassment and regarded it as an alarming issue.

John Kirby, a high-ranking official, acknowledged the Wall Street Journal's inquiry regarding their reporter and confirmed that the White House had knowledge of the alleged mistreatment. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sabrina Siddiqui has faced significant online harassment originating from individuals within India since she posed the question. The newspaper further highlighted that Siddiqui's Muslim faith played a part in her targeted victimization.

Expressing firm disapproval, Mr. Kirby, the White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, declared the behavior as unacceptable and condemned all forms of journalist harassment, irrespective of the context. He emphasized that such actions contradict the fundamental principles of democracy, which were exemplified during the recent state visit.

Following Mr. Kirby's remarks, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary, took the podium and echoed his sentiments, emphasizing the administration's dedication to press freedom. She reiterated that the recent press conference was conducted to uphold the freedom of the press, and reminded everyone of this purpose. Additionally, she unequivocally condemned any attempts to intimidate or harass journalists who are simply performing their professional duties.

During the press conference following his discussions with President Biden on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi addressed Ms. Siddiqui's query by stating that there was no basis for discrimination in India as his government adhered to the Constitution. Ms. Siddiqui, referencing concerns raised by various human rights organizations regarding discrimination and suppression of dissent in India, inquired about the measures the government was prepared to undertake to enhance the rights of Muslims, other minority groups, and safeguard freedom of speech.

The Prime Minister responded with surprise to the question and affirmed that democracy was deeply ingrained in the spirit and essence of the nation. He emphasized that democracy was an integral part of the Indian Constitution, asserting that without human values and human rights, democracy could not exist. PM Modi further stated that in a democratic society, discrimination had no place, and all individuals, regardless of their religion, caste, age, or geographic location, had equal access to basic amenities.

Amit Malviya, the head of BJP's IT cell, took to Twitter to express his strong support for Prime Minister Modi's response during the Q&A session. He praised the Prime Minister for dismantling the question, which he believed to be motivated, about steps taken to protect the rights of Muslims and other minorities. Malviya noted that PM Modi's response focused on the Constitution, equitable access to government resources based on eligibility, and the absence of discrimination based on caste, creed, religion, or geography. He further stated that in light of President Biden's lukewarm response to a similar question, this exchange served as another setback to what he referred to as the "toolkit gang."

In response to the online criticism she faced, Ms. Siddiqui took to social media and posted pictures showcasing her support for the Indian cricket team. The images depicted her wearing an Indian team t-shirt and enthusiastically cheering alongside her father, who was born in India. This act was seen as a poignant response to the detractors and a way to demonstrate her connection and affection towards the country.

In response to individuals who highlighted her personal background, Ms. Siddiqui felt compelled to offer a more comprehensive perspective. Recognizing that identities can be multifaceted, she expressed the importance of providing a broader understanding. Through her tweet, she conveyed that personal backgrounds often contain layers and complexities that may not be immediately apparent.