| 2 October 2023, Monday |

Journalists blocked as India’s Modi welcomes Biden

On the eve of the G20 conference in New Delhi, US President Joe Biden was warmly welcomed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but media were barred from covering the event.

Access to such bilateral meetings on the margins of large conferences like the G20 is usually strictly restricted, although it is seldom completely barred.

The episode occurred after lengthy talks between Indian officials and US officials before Modi consented to answer one question from US reporters during a press conference during his state visit to Washington in June – the Indian leader seldom, if ever, takes questions from foreign media.

The White House “pool” of journalists that accompanies Biden normally attends the beginning of face-to-face meetings, such as Friday’s, to hear preliminary comments and take questions.

“The President believes the free press is the pillar of our democracy,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists on board the airplane taking Biden to India, saying they were doing all they could to secure media access.

After landing, Biden headed to the Indian leader’s residence, but journalists travelling with him were told to remain outside.

“We in the US government work hard to ensure and obtain access for US journalists to everything the President does,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had said on board Air Force One.

“What we can pledge to you is what’s in our control — which is ensuring that we are transparent and comprehensive in our readout of what the two leaders discussed.”

At the Washington press conference with Biden in June, the one question to Modi came from Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui, who asked the Hindu nationalist about accusations of repression of Muslims in India and the country’s record on human rights.

“In India’s democratic values, there is absolutely no discrimination, neither on basis of caste, creed, or age or any kind of geographic location,” Modi replied.

Siddiqui was subsequently subjected to “intense online harassment”, the White House Correspondents’ Association said in a statement, “including from people with ties to the prime minister’s political party.”

  • alarabiya