US stresses on importance of free press amid ban on BBC documentary | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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US stresses on importance of free press amid ban on BBC documentary

Jan 27, 2023 12:03 AM IST

On Monday, when a reporter had sought to get the US to criticise Modi over the 2002 riots based on the BBC documentary, the State Department had said it was not familiar with the documentary, and had instead chosen to highlight the close relationship with India, including in terms of values.

Washington The United States (US) refrained from commenting on the BBC documentary on Gujarat and on the depiction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in it, but, on Wednesday night highlighted the importance of freedom of press and expression in the wake of restrictions imposed on the documentary’s screening in India.

Responding to a question on the government “banning” the documentary, stopping the screening of documentaries in universities, and taking down social media links, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price spoke of the importance of freedom of press on Wednesday. (AP)
Responding to a question on the government “banning” the documentary, stopping the screening of documentaries in universities, and taking down social media links, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price spoke of the importance of freedom of press on Wednesday. (AP)

Responding to a question on the government “banning” the documentary, stopping the screening of documentaries in universities, and taking down social media links, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price spoke of the importance of freedom of press on Wednesday.

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“I will say generally, when it comes to this, we support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of our democracies. This is a point we make in our relationships around the world. It’s certainly a point we have made in India as well,” Price said.

On Monday, when a reporter had sought to get the US to criticise Modi over the 2002 riots based on the BBC documentary, the State Department had said it was not familiar with the documentary, and had instead chosen to highlight the close relationship with India, including in terms of values.

Price had then said, “What I will say broadly is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties, there are economic ties, there are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the United States and India. But one of those additional elements are the values that we share, the values that are common to American democracy and to Indian democracy.”

Explaining the difference in the two US statements on the issue, a former American official who is familiar with the administration’s thinking on India, but wished to remain anonymous, pointed to a nuanced difference and the “somewhat complex balancing act” that Washington DC is attempting.

“The US is deeply conscious of the multifaceted relationship between the two countries, especially in the wake of shared strategic challenges. We do not want to wade into past Indian domestic controversies. We respect Indian democracy and its processes. And we recognise that PM Modi is the legitimately elected leader of the country, is hugely popular and has contributed to the deepening of the India-US relationship,” he said.

But the former official added that as a matter of principle, when it comes to issues of democratic rights, the US will stand up for its values. “We will, politely, sometimes in public, mostly in private, convey what we think undermines our shared values.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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