#MeToo: Twenty journalists pledge to testify against MJ Akbar in court over sexual harassment allegations

Union Minister of State for External Affairs and former editor of ‘The Telegraph’ and ‘The Asian Age’, MJ Akbar, whose name has surfaced in India’s version of #MeToo movement as an accused, had filed a defamation case in his defence against the prime accuser, journalist, Priya Ramani. She was the first amongst the many to have raised similar charges against the Minister.

According to the latest report, twenty women journalists have stepped forward and pledged to testify against the Union Minister in court.

The journalists who worked with ‘The Asian Age’- MJ Akbar was the editor of the newspaper for 15 years, have put out a joint statement in support of their colleague Priya Ramani, which read, “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 a minister and Member of Parliament“. They furthered that Priya Ramani had not only spoken about herself but also exposed the culture of “casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation” that Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.

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The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against MJ Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment while others witnessed it.

The journalists who have come in against the Minister are Meenal Baghel, Manisha Pande, Tushita Patel, Kanika Gahlaut, Suparna Sharma, Ramola Talwar Badam, Hoihnu Hauzel, Aisha Khan, Reshma Chakraborty and Kushalrani Gulab. A journalist from Deccan Chronicle, Christina Francis, has also signed the statement.

The journalists reiterated in their statement that ‘Ramani is not alone in her fight‘ against the Minister.

In the #MeToo movement that started in India after the former actor, Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of harassment during a film shoot 10 years ago, several brave women have volunteered to share their #MeToo moment on social media outing their sexual predators, accusing men in position of power of abusing it to sexually exploit them.

Since then, multiple women have come forward with their allegations against Union Minister, MJ Akbar.

The minister who arrived from a foreign tour a day before had issued a statement trashing the allegations and commenting: “Accusations without evidence has become a viral fever.”

The editor-turned-minister has ignored calls for his resignation since his arrival and on Monday filed a criminal defamation complaint against Priya Ramani, saying she ‘intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated and salacious’ allegations to harm his goodwill and reputation.

Ramani, on the other hand, said she was ready to fight the defamation complaint, that ‘truth and the absolute truth is my only defence‘.

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