Women

#MeToo: 19 Women Journalists Speak out Against M.J. Akbar, Support Priya Ramani

In a statement, 19 former and current employees of The Asian Age asked the Patiala court to consider their testimonies in the civil defamation suit filed by Akbar against Ramani.

New Delhi: Two days after minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar described the allegations of sexual harassment against him as lies and launched a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, 19 former and current employees of The Asian Age on Tuesday have come out in support of Ramani.

These journalists have urged Delhi’s Patiala house court, where Akbar has filed his defamation case to “consider some of their testimonies about their experiences at his hands.” By speaking up, Ramani had “lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation” that Akbar engendered and presided over at the Asian Age, the statement said.

Also Read: M.J. Akbar Files for Defamation, Won’t Be Intimidated Says Priya Ramani

“What Mr 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 many women over the years,” the journalists said in their statement. “He himself, in the meanwhile, continues to enjoy enormous power and privilege as minister and Member of Parliament.”

In an article published in Vogue India last year, journalist Priya Ramani had described her experience when she was interviewed by Akbar for a job interview. While Ramani had not disclosed the editor’s name when the article was published, she recently revealed on Twitter that it was Akbar, as the Indian media’s #MeToo movement gathered pace. In the article, Ramani said Akbar did not meet her in the hotel lobby and insisted that she meet him in his room.

Amid a storm triggered by serious accusations of sexual harassment levelled by nearly a dozen journalists, Akbar on Sunday issued a statement describing the allegations as false, fabricated and “spiced up by innuendo and malice”.

He then filed a civil defamation case against Ramani. According to reports, Akbar has hired 97 lawyers to represent him in the case. Social media users and journalists have however, expressed support to Ramani, who has also stated that she would not be intimidated by the suit.

On Tuesday the signatory journalists who joined the fight for justice by petitioning the court included Meenal Baghel, Manisha Pande, Tushita Patel, Kanika Gahlaut, Suparna Sharma, Ramola Talwar Badam, Kaniza Gazari, Malavika Banerjee, A.T. Jayanthi, Hamida Parkar, Jonali Buragohain, Sanjari Chatterjee Meenakshi Kumar, Sujata Dutta Sachdeva, Hoihnu Hauzel, Reshmi Chakraborty, Kushalrani Gulab, Aisha Khan and Kiran Manral.

Of the 19 journalists, only three – Suparna Sharma, Gahlaut and Tushita Patel – had already spoken about harassment by Akbar.

The full statement issued by the journalists is below.

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Minister MJ Akbar has filed a criminal defamation case against our former colleague Priya Ramani for calling out his predatory behaviour towards the young women he employed at The Asian Age when he was its editor and proprietor.
This, despite the powerful testimonies of several other women who have stepped forward to speak out against his sexual misconduct.

What Mr. 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 many women over the years. He himself, in the meanwhile, continues to enjoy enormous power and privilege as minister and Member of Parliament.

When Ms. Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr. Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.

Ms. Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment.

1) Meenal Baghel (Asian Age 1993-1996)
2) Manisha Pande (Asian Age 1993-1998)
3) Tushita Patel (Asian Age 1993-2000)
4) Kanika Gahlaut (Asian Age 1995-1998)
5) Suparna Sharma (Asian Age 1993-1996)
6) Ramola Talwar Badam (Asian Age 1994-1995)
7) Kaniza Gazari (Asian Age 1995-1997)
8) Malavika Banerjee (Asian Age 1995-1998)
9) A.T. Jayanthi (Asian Age 1995-1996)
10) Hamida Parkar (Asian Age 1996-1999)
11) Jonali Buragohain (Asian Age)
12) Sanjari Chatterjee (Asian Age)
13) Meenakshi Kumar (Asian Age 1996-2000)
14) Sujata Dutta Sachdeva (Asian Age 1999-2000)
15) Hoihnu Hauzel (Asian Age 1999-2000)
16) Reshmi Chakraborty (Asian Age Mumbai staff 1996-1998)
17) Kushalrani Gulab (Asian age 1993-1997)
18) Aisha Khan (Asian Age 1995-1998)
19) Kiran Manral (Asian Age 1993-1996)

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