The Editors Guild of India has come out in support and lauded the 20 women journalists who have named journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar in the growing #MeToo movement, accusing him of sexual harassment.
The Editors Guild said that the resignation of MJ Akbar from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs was a result of the women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.
The top body of editors representing the media industry also expressed its concern over Akbar’s defamation case against one of the journalists, Priya Ramani, and said he should withdraw the case.
“We hope that Mr Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants. While Mr Akbar is entitled to all legal instruments available to a citizen to seek vindication, it would be paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation,” the Editors Guild said in a statement.
Incidentally, MJ Akbar was the president of the Editors Guild.
The Editors Guild assured its full support to the other women journalists in case Akbar decides to sue them. “If any of them were to need legal advice or assistance, the Guild will do the best it can to help and also appeal to eminent lawyers to represent them pro bono,” Editors Guild said.
MJ Akbar has sued journalist Priya Ramani, the first woman to name him in the #MeToo movement in India, accusing her of “intentionally putting forward malicious, fabricated and salacious” allegations to harm his reputation. A Delhi court will hear the case today.
Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra is appearing for MJ Akbar in the criminal defamation case.
MJ Akbar, the former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and The Asian Age was named by Ramani in a tweet on October 8. She said MJ Akbar was the man she had written about in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US set off an avalanche of #MeToo allegations.
After Ramani named Akbar, more women came forward to post stories against him.
Around 20 journalists had come out in her support on Tuesday evening, saying Ramani was not alone and that they would testify in court against Akbar.