Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday denied claim by journalists that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi is “bit of a tyrant”, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

His comment came after a section of the Australian media questioned Albanese for holding a public rally with Modi at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Tuesday. At a news show on Wednesday morning, Channel Seven journalist David Koch expressed surprise at Modi’s popularity in India.

“He has sort of reduced press freedoms, he discriminates against minorities, he is accused of watering down democracy...He sort of, he seems a bit of a tyrant?” Koch asked Albanese, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In response, the Australian prime minister said that it was not up to him to comment about “some of the internal politics in India which, as a democracy, has a range of views, which is a good thing”.

Albanese went on to add: “Prime Minister Modi is certainly popular, not with’s a democracy, but he’s popular with a majority of people.”

Later in the day, Albanese again faced similar questions from ABC News about sharing the stage with Modi. Referring to protests against Modi’s visit to Australia, the channel’s presenter Michael Rowland said that Modi does not have the support of all sections of the Indian community in Australia.

“He [Modi] is accused of repressing his political opponents, he is accused of repressing the media, he is accused of discriminating against Muslims. Does any of that trouble you?” Rowland asked Albanese, reported

The Australian prime minister replied on similar lines as his response to Channel Seven. He added that the protests against Modi’s visit were proof of democracy in Australia.

“Here in Australia, people have a right to express their views in a peaceful way…And we all have different views about people in politics,” he said.

On Tuesday, more than 20,000 people from the Indian diaspora attended the rally in Sydney addressed by Modi and Albanese. “The last time I saw someone on this stage was Bruce Springsteen and he did not get the welcome that Prime Minister Modi has got,” Albanese said at the event.

At a press meeting on Wednesday morning, Modi said that he has expressed concerns about recent incidents of attacks on temples and pro-Khalistan demonstrations in Australia to Albanese. “It is not acceptable to us that anyone hurt the friendly and cordial ties between India and Australia by their actions or ideology,” Modi said in his media statement.

The two prime ministers also announced a migration deal to “promote the two-way mobility of students, graduates, academic researchers and business people”.