New Delhi: As many as 158 personalities, including journalists, artists and writers on Thursday wrote to Zee Media’s English news portal WION against the employment of former union minister MJ Akbar in its newsroom, noting the sexual harassment charges against him.
Though his appointment has not been made official, Newslaundry had first reported that MJ Akbar was attending the editorial meetings from early August.
The 158 signatories said in a statement that “by allowing someone accused by multiple people of sexual harassment in its newsroom, WION and Zee TV are violating the responsibility they have to journalists who carry out the important mission of informing the public”.
Among popular signatories are journalists including Barkha Dutt, Harinder Baweja, Dhanya Rajendran, Kavitha Iyer, Maya Mirchandani, Rohini Mohan, Pallavi Gogoi and Rituparna Chatterjee.
Prominent voice of the #MeToo movement, singer Chinmayi Sripada too signed the appeal.
They said that WION is failing journalists and ignoring the traumatic experiences of more than 20 women who “have courageously spoken out about MJ Akbar’s despicable misuse of power.”
“Putting MJ Akbar in a position of power will have a chilling effect of silencing its own and other journalists against abuse,” the letter added.
The signatories also called upon the Editors Guild to take up the matter and sought them to ask every news organisation to bar him because a ‘clear, meaningful message’ needs to be sent to ‘young female journalists.
#MeToo allegations and defamation case against Priya Ramani
When #MeToo allegations came up against Akbar in 2018 from various women who worked with him, along with journalist Priya Ramani, he resigned as the minister of state for external affairs. Ramani had accused Akbar of engaging in inappropriate behaviour around 20 years ago when he was a journalist.
In an account titled To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world appeared in Vogue in 2017, she detailed her experience with a ‘Male Boss’ but did not name Akbar. It was only after a year, when the #MeToo movement was raging in India that she removed ‘the cloak of anonymity’ and revealed his name.
MJ Akbar then filed a case against Priya Ramani for defamation and lost it at the trial courts. Last week, the Delhi high court issued a notice to Ramani after Akbar challenged her acquittal in the criminal defamation case he had filed against her for accusing him of harassment.