Over 150 Journalists Sign Letter Asking WION News to Remove M.J. Akbar

In the statement, which has also been uploaded to Twitter, the group of journalists noted that, "By choosing to employ M.J. Akbar, WION is failing journalists."

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New Delhi: Over 150 journalists and media personalities have signed a letter addressed to Zee News and its subsidiary, WION News asking them to remove journalist and Rajya Sabha MP M.J. Akbar in light of the numerous sexual assault allegations which have been levied against him in the past.

The statement was shared by several journalists on Twitter, including Suparna Sharma, editor of the Asian Age, a newspaper which Akbar founded in 1994. 

The statement said that there should be “no room for sexual harassment and sexual harassers at workplaces” and accused WION and Zee of “violating the responsibility they have to journalists” by allowing Akbar in their newsroom.

The former Union Minister Akbar had joined WION, Zee Media’s English news channel in August of this year as an ‘editorial consultant’, as reported by Exhange4Media. 

Akbar had been implicated in India’s #MeToo movement in 2018 when journalist Priya Ramani had accused him of sexual misconduct. Following Ramani’s disclosures, 20 other women journalists stepped up to accuse him of sexual harassment, assault and rape, the Indian Express reported.

Akbar, who was the Union minister of state for external affairs at the time, was forced to resign from his post. In response, Akbar filed a case of criminal defamation against Ramani in 2018. After two years of court dates, a Delhi court acquitted Ramani in February, 2021. However, Akbar appealed the court’s decision in the Delhi high court in August and Ramani was consequently issued notice.

The statement posted to Twitter takes notice of these facts and notes that, by hiring Akbar, WION was “ignoring the traumatic experiences of more than 20 women”. 

Several prominent journalists are amongst the undersigned of the statement, including Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan, Pallavi Gogoi and many others, which asks the Editors Guild of India to bar Akbar from its newsrooms. It said that this move was necessary to convey that the Guild was “committed to ensuring a safe working space for them [women] where they are respected and encouraged to speak up.”

The Editors Guild had suspended Akbar in 2018 when the allegations against him came to light.