US State Department responds to concerns about free speech and censorship during Indian elections

US State Department responds to concerns about free speech and censorship during Indian elections Photo: Mushfiqul Fazal, Just News BD

Washington, D.C., May 3, 2024

State Department correspondent

As the world's largest democratic exercise begins in India, concerns over freedom of expression and government-led censorship are rising. During a press briefing on Thursday, State Department correspondent Mushfiqul Fazal posed a question regarding increasing intimidation and harassment related to India's ongoing election, as well as Prime Minister Modi's inflammatory rhetoric against the Muslim community. The question highlighted how these issues contribute to fear and uncertainty among India's 200-million-strong Muslim population.

The query also pointed out that major social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Meta are removing critical content and blocking channels at the request of Indian authorities, prompting questions about the impact on free speech and U.S.-based platforms' role in this context.

Mushfique asked State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller what steps are being taken to protect these platforms and ensure the right to free expression is upheld.

In response, Miller indicated that while he couldn't provide specific details on U.S. actions, the U.S. government remains committed to supporting freedom of expression worldwide. He stated, "So let me take that one back – regards to any specific actions, not – which is not to say there are any. But of course we support freedom of expression all around the world, in every country in the world."

This comes as India, often celebrated for its democratic traditions, faces growing scrutiny over issues related to human rights, freedom of speech, and the treatment of minorities. The ongoing election has drawn global attention, and the outcome may significantly impact the trajectory of democratic practices in the region.

Given the significance of these concerns, many will be watching closely to see how the U.S. and other international actors respond to India's handling of free speech and censorship during this pivotal time.