'Any Workplace With MJ Akbar Not Safe': Twitter as He Joins Wion Post #MeToo
MJ Akbar has been accused of intimidating women at work with sexual innuendos, and of violating consent.
(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of sexual assault and physical violence. Reader discretion advised.)
Former Union Minister and editor MJ Akbar, who was accused of sexual harassment by several women, has joined WION, an English TV news channel run by Zee Media.
While the media conglomerate has not officially announced his appointment, he has been attending the channel's editorial meetings since 16 August, Newslaundry first reported.
The #MeToo movement began with multiple allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in the United States in 2017. As the movement made its way to India, MJ Akbar, then a Union minister, was the most high-profile name to be called out – by multiple former employees who had worked under him.
People also took to Twitter to point out that the re-emergence of Akbar in a newsroom was "disturbing" and was an "affront to female employees."
Journalist Pallavi Gogoi said that creating a safe space is the primary responsibility of an employer and any space with the former editor is "not safe for women, especially young women."
Others pointed out that powerful men go on with their lives after #MeToo allegations, and it doesn't matter if the survivors speak up.
'Molested Me, Tried to Kiss Me': Allegations Against MJ Akbar
At least 12 women journalists have accused Akbar of sexually harassing them, while he was working as an editor of a newspaper, after journalist Priya Ramani called him out publicly in 2018.
From intimidating them at work with sexual innuendos, to violating consent, conducting uncomfortable interviews – the women journalists have come forward and shared detailed accounts of the alleged harassment.
A former colleague of Akbar's, journalist Ghazala Wahab in an article in The Wire alleged that her last six months at The Asian Age "were pure hell" when he repeatedly "sexually harassed and molested" her.
Another journalist, UK-based Ruth David, recalled how Akbar stood behind her and offered massages and tried to kiss her.
"Akbar tried to kiss me against my will," Ruth wrote, in 2018.
In an article in The Quint, Swati Gautam, a survivor, wrote:
"The door opened and the bathrobe welcomed me. Mr Bathrobe was on the bed while I was kind of squirming on the single sofa in the room. Bending down, he rolled the glass in his hand towards me. And I kept looking at it near my feet, petrified and totally lost."
Akbar finally resigned from his post as Union minister, nine days after the first allegation became public.
Akbar's Defamation Case Against Journalist
On 15 October 2018, Akbar filed a complaint against Priya Ramani, for criminal defamation under Section 500 of the IPC.
Two years later, on 17 February, Ramani was acquitted of the charges brought against her.
Judge Ravindra Kumar Pandey said that the court took into consideration "systemic abuse at workplace" to arrive at the verdict.
The court further accepted Ramani’s contention that Akbar was “not a man of stellar reputation,” but that "even a man of social status can be a sexual harasser."
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