Journalist Organisations Issue Statement on MJ Akbar, Demand Probe
The joint statement said MJ Akbar should “step down from his post”, and called for an impartial probe.
Union Minister MJ Akbar on Monday, 15 October, filed a criminal defamation case in Delhi's Patiala House Court against journalist Priya Ramani, claiming that the allegations made against him were ‘baseless’.
Many of the survivors and activists expressed dismay and disappointment at Akbar’s actions, while multiple journalist organisations issued a statement against the Union minister’s comments.
In a joint statement, – issued on behalf Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, Press Association and South Asian Women in Media – the journalist organisations said they were “deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media”.
In the statement, the organisations said they were “deeply disappointed” at Akbar’s statements, wherein he threatened legal action against those who have alleged they were harassed by him.
The statement said Akbar should “step down from his post” and called for an “impartial probe” into all the complaints against him.
“In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it would only be appropriate that the minister step down from his post till such time as the inquiry is completed,” the statement read.
Here is the full text of the statement:
We the undersigned journalist organisations have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media. We recognize that sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment.
We are also deeply disappointed at the statement issued by Mr MJ Akbar, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs. wherein he has threatened legal action against all those who have alleged they were harassed by him.
Mr. Akbar is a senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him. There can be no dispute about the need for an impartial probe into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants - and this acquires particular significance if one of the accused is an influential minister in the government.
In the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it would only be appropriate that the minister step down from his post till such time as the inquiry is completed. We are disappointed that Mr. Akbar did not choose to take this step instead of threatening the complainants with legal action.
An impartial probe should be conducted into all the complaints without fear of threat or intimidation to the complainants more so as the accused party is an influential minister in the present government.
We also feel that in the interests of a fair probe, moral and public propriety, it is only proper and appropriate that the minister step down from his post till as such time the probe is completed.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive phenomenon. It has continued with impunity despite the enactment of a tough law to prevent, prohibit and redress it, the inability of women to speak out about such harassment needs serious introspection and redress. We hope that employers in media organisations and the government will look into this with the seriousness it deserves and not treat the incidents as motivated complaints.
– Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Club of India, Press Association, South Asian Women in Media
More than half a dozen women journalists have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at various stages of his journalistic career.
Akbar, speaking out against the allegations, said, “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill.”
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