Women

Editor's Guild Asks M.J. Akbar to Withdraw Defamation Case Against Priya Ramani

It would be paradoxical for a former editor to use the "instrument of criminal defamation", the guild said, adding that it would offer legal advice and assistance to Ramani.

New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has offered legal advice or assistance to Priya Ramani, against whom former minister M.J. Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case after she accused him of sexual harassment. The requested Akbar to withdraw the case as it would be “paradoxical for a veteran editor to employ the instrument of criminal defamation”.

The guild, of which Akbar is a former president, said the courageous efforts of women journalists were for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom. Akbar’s resignation from the Union council of ministers is a result of their courage, a statement said.

Also Read: After Multiple Women Say #MeToo, M.J. Akbar Resigns From Modi Government

If Akbar does not withdraw the case – or files more cases against any of the other women who have accused him of harassment – the guild was prepared to offer legal advice or assistance and will also appeal to “eminent lawyers” to represent them pro bono.

The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.

Ramani was the first person to accuse Akbar of harassment. At least 14 other women have since said they were also harassed by the former Asian Age editor. After Akbar filed the defamation case, Ramani has received support from 19 former and current Asian Age employees, who said they were prepared to testify that Akbar behaved inappropriately. Ramani has also said she would not be intimidated by the case and was prepared to fight it legally.

Akbar resigned from the Narendra Modi cabinet on Wednesday. In his statement, he said he was resigning to take on the allegations in a personal capacity.

The full statement issued by the Editors Guild of India is below.

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The Editors Guild of India salutes the courage shown by several women journalists in bringing to light instances of how they were sexually harassed. The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.

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. More so for Mr Akbar who happens to be a former president of the Guild.

But if he doesn’t, or in case he files such cases against other women too, the Guild offers its support to 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.

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