#MeToo: Union Minster MJ Akbar sues journalist

PTI New Delhi | Updated on October 15, 2018 Published on October 15, 2018

MoS External Affairs, MJ Akbar (file photo)   -  THE HINDU

The “tone and tenor” of the “scandalous” allegations are defamatory, says complaint.

Opposition parties, more than a dozen women journalists and their associations questioned Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs MJ Akbar’s decision — not to quit the Cabinet and challenge the allegations of sexual misconduct against him by filing a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani in a Delhi court. The BJP did not comment on the matter but said Akbar has presented his version.

Akbar hits back

Akbar’s petition said “the scandalous allegations” levelled by Ramani are, “by their very tone and tenor”, defamatory and have damaged the goodwill and reputation of Akbar in his social circles and on the political stage, “established after years of toil and hard work.”

The complaint claimed that the allegations have affected his personal reputation in the community, friends, family and colleagues and caused him irreparable loss and tremendous distress. “The defamatory statements of the accused person have, thereby, irreparably damaged the reputation and standing of the complainant,” the petition said.

Ramani said in a statement that those who have spoken up against Akbar did so at a great risk to their personal and professional lives. 

“I am deeply disappointed that a Union Minister dismissed the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy. By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Akbar made his stand clear: rather than engaging with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment,” she said.

Cong slams BJP

The Congress questioned the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the decision to allow Akbar to continue in his post. “It is clear where the Prime Minister stands. He does not stand with more than a dozen women journalists who were harassed by Akbar. He stands with the Minister, who is an accused,” Congress spokesperson RPN Singh said. 

Joint statement

A joint statement by Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, Press Association and South-Asian Women in Media said sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and management have been unable to put the systems in place to address complaints of sexual harassment. “An impartial probe should be conducted into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation as the accused party is an influential Minister in the present government,” they said.

The Delhi Union of Journalists said filing of defamation cases and other such counter measures will in no way lessen Akbar’s burden. The DUJ condemned the “veiled threats” held out by Akbar to women journalists who dared to come out against him and demanded his resignation.

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Published on October 15, 2018
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