20 Women Journalists Speak Out Against MJ Akbar, Want Court to Hear Their Testimony

Trouble seems to be increasing for Union minister MJ Akbar with 20 women journalists, who were part of the first few teams he set up when he launched The Asian Age in 1994, describing the former editor’s behaviour and condemning his sexual advances.

The women, in a petition, asked the court hearing the defamation case to consider their testimony about the “culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that he engendered and presided over” at the newspaper. The story was first published by FirstPost.

Here is the full text of the petition:

Minister M.J. 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)

20) Christina Francis (Deccan Chronicle 2004-2011)

At least 20 women have accused the junior foreign minister of sexually harassing them during his journalism days.

The latest to join the list of women who have called out Akbar is Tushita Patel, a journalist who was a part of the team that started the Asian Age.

Writing for Scroll, Tushita said, “1993, Hyderabad. You were the editor-in-chief of the Deccan Chronicle, I was a senior sub-editor. You came in to town and summoned me to your hotel to discuss my pages. I was late (I had to finish my pages). When I reached your room, you were sullen, sitting there drinking tea and in a vile mood. You started yelling at me about being late, about my work. I was trying to mumble some words. Suddenly you got up, grabbed me and kissed me hard – your stale tea breath and your bristly moustache are still etched in the recesses of my memory. I wriggled out and ran till I reached the road, jumped into an auto rickshaw and started crying.”

Akbar has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and termed them as “false, fabricated and spiced up”, as he questioned its timing months before the Lok Sabha polls, and vowed legal action.

He had filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to accuse him of sexual harassment on social media. She has vowed to fight back and called the case just an intimidation tactic.

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