The Congress on Saturday alleged that the government did not allow access to the United States press officials who have travelled to India along with President Joe Biden for the G-20 Summit. Bringing the press freedom issue along with it, the Congress said India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index was “falling year after year”.
The journalists travelling with Biden on the Air Force One flight to India were told by National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that the press access issue was seriously taken up by the US with their Indian counterparts but added that it was best to follow the protocols of the host country, according to reports.
Taking to X, formerly Twitter, Congress said, “Journalists have come from America with President Joe Biden. These journalists wanted to question PM Modi and Joe Biden. The American government was ready for questions, but the Modi government did not allow journalists to ask questions.”
Biden met PM Modi at the latter’s residence on Friday. Reuters reported that the US press officials, who travelled with US President were kept in a van, being out of the eyesight of the two leaders. Reuters stated that this was an unusual situation for the US reporters and photographers who usually follow Biden across the world to record his appearances.
Congress further said, “India is at number 161 in the World Press Freedom Index, out of 180 countries. This ranking is falling year after year.”
Sullivan told the press, as per a transcript released by the White House, Biden has had bilateral meetings without the press being present. He added that this wasn’t a “typical bilateral visit to India” and the discussions were held at PM Modi’s home instead of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Reuters foreign policy reporter Hümeyra Pamuk tweeted that Pierre told US reporters, “Look, guys, we are doing everything that we can to make sure that there is access.”
Sullivan said, “This is the host of the G-20 hosting a significant number of leaders, doing so in his home, and he has set out the protocols he’s set out.”
Explaining the press, Sullivan explained that this was a circumstance-based issue and nothing larger.
Pierre said that several US officials — Sullivan, White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt, Kurt Campbell and John Finer from the US National Security Council, and members of the US sherpa team — contacted India. She added that this wasn’t unusual in summits.
Sullivan and Pierre referred to the June 22 press conference, which was held when Modi visited the United States on an official State visit. Sullivan called it “the unusual circumstance of a press conference in which Prime Minister Modi took questions”.