Tactical

White House mum on jailed Defense News correspondent

Senior White House officials said press freedom would be among the topics discussed this week by President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in private meetings, but would not commit to specifically intervening in the case of Defense News contributor Vivek Raghuvanshi.

Raghuvanshi, a journalist and freelancer to Defense News for more than three decades, was jailed in mid-May by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation on charges of espionage. The Indian government has released minimal information on his arrest.

Sightline Media Group, which owns Defense News, and the National Press Club have condemned the move and called for officials to produce more information on the allegations and his ongoing detention.

Modi’s government has received significant criticism from international groups such as Amnesty International for restricting media reporting and public protests. Human rights advocates are expected to protest Modi’s visit to Washington, D.C. this week to highlight some of those concerns.

In a briefing with reporters ahead of the visit, senior White House officials vowed that Biden would not shy away from discussing those issues in private meetings throughout the week.

But they would not detail the specific topics to be included. Asked whether Raghuvanshi’s imprisonment would be mentioned, the officials said only that “a full range of issues will be on the table.”

As part of the visit, White House officials are expected to announce a series of new defense partnerships with India, including joint production of new jet engines and new ship repair agreements between the countries. Were he not in custody, Raghuvanshi would likely have covered those issues.

Modi is expected to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday afternoon and attend a state dinner at the White House in his honor on Thursday night.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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