New Delhi, October 16: Trouble seems to be brewing for Union Minister MJ Akbar, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment under the #MeToo campaign. At least 17 of his former subordinates, who were employed by The Asian Age newspaper when he was its editor, announced on Wednesday that they would be testifying against him.
In the joint statement issued by the 17 journalists, they defended their colleague Priya Ramani against the defamation suit slapped by Akbar. The scribes submitted an affidavit before the Delhi court, where the criminal defamation case will be heard. MJ Akbar, Facing #MeToo Allegations, Will be Defended by 97 Lawyers.
“Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment,” the journalists said in the joint statement undersigned by them.
The reporters who have signed the undertaking include: Meenal Baghel who worked for Asian Age (1993 to 1996), Manisha Pande (1993-1998), Tushita Patel (1993-2000), Kanika Gahlaut (1995-1998), Suparna Sharma (1993-1996), Ramola Talwar Badam (1994-1995), Hoihnu Hauzel (1999-2000), Aisha Khan (1995-1998) and Kushalrani Gulab (1993-1997), Kaniza Gazari (Asian Age 1995-1997), Malavika Banerjee (1995-1998), A T Jayanthi (1995-1996), Hamida Parkar (1996-1999), Jonali Buragohain, Meenakshi Kumar (1996-2000), Sujata Dutta Sachdeva (1999-2000) and Sanjari Chatterjee.
“What Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm to many women over the years. He himself, in the meanwhile, continues to enjoy enormous power and privilege as minister and Member of Parliament,” their statement added. Target of a Malicious, Defamatory Campaign: Akbar.
“When Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience, but also lifted the lid on the culture of ‘casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation’ that Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age,” it further stated.
Many journalists from multiple media platforms have come forward with their stories of harassment against the Minister of State for External Affairs under the social media campaign ‘#Metoo’ against sexual misconduct. Akbar, however, has denied the allegations and on Monday filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani.
Akbar, who returned from his official visit to Africa on Sunday, said the charges levelled against him are "malicious and intended to defame" him. Ruling out his resignation, the Minister said he would legally fight back against all those who have pressed the harassment charges against him.
Ramani, the journalist who first levelled the accusation against the veteran editor, said she is determined to take the battle against Akbar in the courtroom. "With truth on my side, I have no reason to fear his defamation suit," she said.