NEW DELHI: The #MeToo movement that has caused a storm in the film industry and singed newsrooms reached the Narendra Modi’s government.
M.J. Akbar, a well-known former editor and a junior foreign minister on Tuesday accused of sexual harassment by several female journalists in the social media.
Journalist Priya Ramani, formerly of India Today, The Indian Express and Mint the first journalist to go public with the allegations narrated her ordeal about the gut-wrenching incident of sexual misconduct she faced during a job interview with a renowned journalist who had “transformed Indian journalism.”
A day after Ramani levelled allegations against Akbar, another of his former colleague Prerna Singh Bindra came up with charges of sexual harassment.
The Telegraph, of which Akbar was the founding editor, had carried a story on Tuesday based on tweets by Ramani and another account by an unnamed writer in Firstpost, a news portal.
Ramani had on Monday tweeted about a piece she had written for The Vogue magazine in 2017.
On Tuesday she tweeted “a small story from someone who worked” with him. “MJ Akbar never missed an opportunity,” Ramani said.
— Priya Ramani (@priyaramani) October 8, 2018
Another journalist Shuma Raha shared her own experience of being interviewed for a job in Asian Age by Akbar in 1995 at Kolkata’s Taj Bengal hotel. She wrote, “I must clarify, however, that he didn’t actually “do” anything. But the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening, was rattling and deeply uncomfortable.”
I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually "do" anything. But the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening, was rattling and deeply uncomfortable.
— Shuma Raha (@ShumaRaha) October 8, 2018
Suparna Sharma, currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Delhi told The Indian Express, that, “He plucked my bra strap and said something which I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” recalled Sharma.
Another journalist Shutapa Paul, on Tuesday came out against Akbar retweeting Ramani’s tweet naming Akbar, wrote, “#MeToo #MJAkbar 2010-11 while in @IndiaToday in Kolkata”.
Journalist Prerna Singh Bindra had on Sunday made allegations against Akbar but did not name him. However, on Tuesday she named him and made a series of tweets.
“He was this brilliant, flamboyant editor who dabbled in politics, who called me-my 1st job-to his hotel room to ‘discuss work’, after I put the edition to bed-read midnight, and made life at work hell when I refused, couldn’t speak up due to various compulsions, but yes #MeTooIndia,” she had said.
— prerna singh bindra (@prernabindra) October 9, 2018
The journalist said she did keep in touch with Akbar of and on through the years but “stripped of all respect.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday did not answer media queries about allegations concerning Akbar. As reporters persisted with their questions and asked if there will be a probe, she walked past them without giving an answer.
In a video shot by a journalist Smita Sharma, Swaraj can be seen evading questions related to allegations on Akbar, asked by some women scribes.
“Ma’am, there are serious allegations…these are sexual harassment allegations. You are a woman minister in charge. Will, there be at least an internal probe on the allegations?” journalists can be heard asking in the video. Swaraj, however, walked away without answering.
To my pointed question on if an internal probe will happen on #SexualHarassment allegations against @mjakbar , EAM @SushmaSwaraj refuses to comment. Still waiting for a ministry statement @thetribunechd @MEAIndia #MeToo pic.twitter.com/ZHZ3EJhCPl
— Smita Sharma (@Smita_Sharma) October 9, 2018
Expressing concern over the instances of alleged sexual harassment, the Editors Guild of India has called upon the news media organisations to conduct unbiased probes into all such cases.
The Guild said it unequivocally condemns all “predatory conduct” by such men.
“It is worse when the perpetrators also happen to be enjoying senior or supervisory positions in the profession,” it said in a statement adding that it was committed to ensuring legal rights of either the victims or the accused are not violated.
“A fair, just and safe working environment is essential if press freedom is to flourish,” it said expressing solidarity with female journalists.
with agency inputs