Online Harassment to WSJ Reporter Sabrina Siddiqui Undermines PM Modi’s Statement in the White House

Mohd Naushad Khan

Mohd Naushad Khan

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If Democracy Is In the DNA of India Why Online Harassment to the Wall Street Journal Reporter Sabrina Siddiqui

THE WHITE HOUSE has declared it “totally unacceptable” that a US journalist was harassed on social media for asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi a question at their joint press conference here with President Joe Biden.

Sabrina Siddiqui, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, questioned Prime Minister Modi last week on the rights of minorities in India and the measures his administration was prepared to take to protect free speech and advance those rights.

At a press briefing on 26 June, John Kirby, the US National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, was asked about Siddiqui facing such online harassment after asking a question to Prime Minister of India.

Sabrina Siddiqui during PM MOdi’s press conference in White House

“We’re aware of the reports of that harassment,” Kirby said. “It’s unacceptable. And we absolutely condemn any harassment of journalists anywhere under any circumstances. That’s completely unacceptable. And it’s antithetical to the very principles of democracy that were on display last week during the state visit.”

In a statement, the Wall Street Journal said that Siddiqui is a “respected journalist known for her integrity and unbiased reporting. This harassment of our reporter is unacceptable, and we strongly condemn it,” said the statement.

On 24 June, The South Asian Journalists Association while extending support to Siddiqui after she faced online harassment said, “We want to express our continued support of our colleague Sabrina Siddiqui who, like many South Asian and female journalists, is experiencing harassment for simply doing her job.” The association said, “Press freedom is the hallmark of any democracy and PM Modi leads the world’s largest democracy.”

Shastri Ramachandaran

According to Shastri Ramachandaran, senior journalist, Political and Foreign Affairs Commentator, “ The online harassment, abuse and trolling of the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked a question of India’s Prime Minister at the White House press conference is a sad commentary on the followers of Prime Minister Modi. Their conduct bears out the assumption underlying the question posed to Modi.

The harassment undermines, if not mocks, Modi’s answer to her question, particularly his saying that “democracy is in India’s DNA”. The hate campaign against the WSJ journalist reinforces the claim that such toxic harassment, trolling and abuse, and the intolerance these betray are also in the DNA of present-day India.”

PM Modi during a press conference in the White House

Ramachandaran added, “This campaign tarnishes the dignity of the Prime Minister’s office and shows contempt for all that is associated with his state visit including the White House as a prestigious platform for PM’s engagement with the Press. The harassment of the WSJ being called out by the White House and top US officials is an entirely avoidable national humiliation.”

“It’s not a surprise that Sabrina Siddiqui, a US journalist has been harassed online after she asked question to the Prime Minister on human rights violations in India. With the kind of encouragement that the online harassers get directly and indirectly from those in authority and always go scot free, we can expect only these kind of negative and unproductive engagement by the citizens especially the youth. It is unethical and against the principles of Democracy which our Prime Minister himself has been claiming.” said Rahamathunnnissa A, Chief Editor of Aura women’s monthly magazine.

Rahamathunnnissa A

She added, “The greatest sign of any Democratic country is the freedom the citizens enjoy to ask questions to their rulers and they are bound to answer by the constitutional and ethical values. But unfortunately, this has not been happening for the past 9 years in our country. The prime minister and other ministers neither address the media nor do they give proper reply to any questions.

They are more interested in ‘Mann Ki Baat’ which is a sign of Autocracy and not Democracy. No wonder the press freedom index in our country is going down from bad to worse with so many journalists being stifled to either quit the job or getting arrested or even killed. Cyber-attack and abuse on women including journalists has become one of the most favourite time passes of the right-wing social media handlers. Now that Sabrina Siddiqui is on attack, there is so much international media attention and this again is a shame on the entire nation which has been telling the world that it respects women.”

Syed Ali Rizvi, President, SPS Alfachem, Co-Founder – Sir Syed Education Society of North America and Ex-Director-Indian Association of Greater Boston while congratulating young professional journalist, Sabrina Siddiqui, for her courage and integrity in asking a crucial question to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recent press conference at the White House said, “It is commendable that she addressed the issue of alleged discrimination against minorities and sought clarity on how the government plans to address this matter. But at the same time it is disheartening to learn about the abusive and targeted online attacks that Sabrina Siddiqui faced after posing her question. No journalist should be subjected to such harassment and abuse. It is a shameful reflection on those who engaged in such behavior.”

Syed Ali Rizvi

Rizvi added, “The role of the media is to ask tough questions and hold leaders accountable. It is essential for a healthy democracy to have an open and transparent dialogue between the government and the media. If there is nothing to hide, it is important for leaders to address the concerns and engage in constructive discussions through press conferences. We believe that Sabrina Siddiqui’s question was valid and necessary, given the allegations of discrimination against religious minorities. It is crucial for the government to acknowledge and address these concerns and work towards creating an inclusive society where every citizen’s rights are protected.”

“Lynchings and any form of violence against Indian minorities must be unequivocally condemned. We hope that Prime Minister Modi and his party will take the necessary steps to reverse this trend and ensure the safety and well-being of all citizens, regardless of their religion or background. It is essential that we promote a culture of respect, tolerance, and inclusivity, both online and offline. The abuse and targeted attacks on journalists have no place in a democratic society. We stand in solidarity with Sabrina Siddiqui and condemn any form of hate speech or discrimination,” said Rizvi.

Rizvi stressed to strive for a society where journalists can freely ask questions, where dialogue is encouraged, and where the rights of all individuals are protected. Together, we can work towards building a better and more inclusive future.

“Sabrina Siddiqui was the only journalist ‘allowed’ to ask a question during the press conference at the White House. As a journalist, she asked the right question to Prime Minister Modi about the treatment of Muslims and minorities in India. All hell broke loose; Modi fans started attacking Sabrina online for asking that question. PM Modi did not address the question. Instead, he gave a standard line that all Indians are treated equally; he said that with a straight face. The majority of Indians knows him by now and discounts all the promises he had made to Indians in 2014 and again in 2019, and they also ignored his statement” said Dr. Mike Ghouse who is a social scientist, founder, and president of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC, and offers pluralistic solutions to issues of the day.

Dr. Mike Ghouse

On the culture of growing intolerance, Ghouse said, “It is so sad to read about the growing intolerance in India. What kind of future society is Mr. Modi nurturing? Can we count on India as a nation that honors religious freedom and human rights? Leaders are transient people, they come and go, but India will remain a beacon of democracy and freedom with temporary setbacks. We are proud of our Pluralistic sabhyata, and we all have the responsibility to question our leaders and hold them accountable.”

“Mr. Modi has not held a press conference in the last nine years, and it is not in the interest of our nation. The freedom you and I have now to speak will not be there if Mr. Modi continues his style of governance. At the Center for Pluralism, we monitor such trends where societies lose civility and religious freedom and violate human rights. We hope more of us can commit to free speech,” said Ghouse.

People in India and in America are arguing that if Democracy is in the DNA of India then why people are indulging in online harassment to the Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui? punjab


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Mohd Naushad Khan

Mohd Naushad Khan

The writer is a Delhi based journalist, presently working for weekly magazine, Radiance Viewsweekly as a Sub-Editor and also contributing articles to other national publications.

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